House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was veterans.

Topics

Poverty
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition on behalf of 44 Nova Scotians who are very concerned about people living in poverty in Canada and call upon Parliament to ensure swift passage of Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada.

Iran
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition from my constituents who are alarmed that the fourfold Iranian threat: nuclear, incitement, terrorism and massive domestic repression, constitute a grave threat to international peace and security of Canada.

Accordingly, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to support Bill C-412, the Iran Accountability Act, the only such bill before the House, to implement the recommendations of the unanimously adopted report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on Ahmadinejad Iran's threat to peace, human rights and international law, to decry the massive domestic repression and human rights abuses in Iran, including an unprecedented rate of execution, to hold leaders in Iran criminally responsible for their state sanctioned incitement to genocide, to work with our international partners to combat the state sanctioned incitement, the quest for nuclear arms, the support for global terror and its massive domestic repression and to support the Interpol arrest warrant for terrorist action as well.

Housing
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to present a petition from my riding. Denise Chartrand brought me this petition signed by more than 100 people calling on the Government of Canada to make the necessary public investment to enable the Société d'habitation du Québec to complete its low-income housing renovation plan and to cover the accumulated maintenance deficit.

On behalf of Denise Chartrand, it is my great pleasure to present this petition in the hope that the Canadian government will take it into account.

Health Care
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions I would like to present today.

The first one deals with the desire of many Canadians to have a national government that will insist on more accountability in health care. That means stable funding, national standards and more.

There is a great deal of concern in regard to the health care accord and the need for the government to start to take actions that will reinforce what is a very valuable treasure that many Canadians recognize, our health care system.

Foreign Affairs
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with the issue of visitor visas particularly from the Philippines and India. We need to support the right of family members to be able to visit Canada as long as they are of good character and good health. Far too often visas are turned down for individuals who want to come to Canada to participate in special graduation ceremonies or because someone in their family has passed away.

We need to do more to enable families to be reunited during these times.

North Korea
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today from residents of Don Valley West and some of their friends, drawing attention to their concern about human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea. The petitioners want to ensure that Canada's voice be heard in calling for fairness in treatment and transparency for people living in North Korea, as well as for those who may leave North Korea and seek refuge in other countries.

The petition reaffirms Canada's commitment to millennium development goals and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It requests us to maintain, if not increase, Canadian humanitarian aid to North Korea through NGOs and charitable organizations. It also pressures the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's government to take responsibility for human rights violations that it has committed in the past and prevent further violations.

I congratulate the students of Crescent School who have worked hard to not only get signatures, but also to raise awareness of this important human rights issue.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act, be read the third time and passed.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to an order made March 9, Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act is deemed read a third time and passed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House proceeded to the consideration of C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that the Bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Hon. Rob Nicholson moved that the Bill be read the third time and passed.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin the third reading debate on Bill C-54, Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act.

The bill recognizes that sexual exploitation of children causes irreparable harm to the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society. The bill recognizes that we as legislators not only have the opportunity but also the responsibility to do all that we can to protect children from this harm. No less important, the bill reflects the view held by most, if not all, Canadians that sexual exploitation of children is reprehensible and that the criminal law must treat all forms of child sexual exploitation as such, including by imposing penalties that fit the severity of this crime.

Bill C-54 therefore proposes Criminal Code amendments to ensure that all child sexual abuse penalties consistently reflect the serious nature of this crime as well as to prevent the commission of a sexual offence against a child.

The bill proposes to add seven new mandatory sentences to existing child sexual offences that do not currently impose minimum sentences. It proposes to increase the minimum sentences for seven child specific sexual offences that already have mandatory sentences and to impose two new sentences in the two new offences proposed by this bill. In this way, Bill C-54 would ensure that all sexual offences involving child victims are treated the same by requiring all convicted child sex offenders to serve a term of imprisonment. This would eliminate a distinction that currently exists between the 12 child specific sexual offences that already impose mandatory penalties and the seven additional sexual offences that still do not.

This existing distinction sends out the wrong message. In effect, it says to the majority of child sexual assault victims whose offenders are charged under the general sexual assault offence in section 271 that does not impose a minimum sentence that their victimization is less serious than that of the 19% of child victims whose offenders are charged under child specific sexual offences that do carry minimum penalties. This is just wrong and Bill C-54 would change this.

The bill would also increase seven existing mandatory minimum penalties in the child specific sexual offences to ensure that the minimums are commensurate not only with the offence in question, but are also coherent with those for other offences. For example, offences that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment on indictment would have the same minimum penalty of one year.

Accordingly, the existing minimum for the offence of sexual interference in section 151 would be increased from 45 days to one year, which in turn would be consistent with the new minimum proposed in section 271, the general sexual assault offence that also carries a maximum penalty of 10 years on indictment.

During its review of Bill C-54 the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard from a range of witnesses, including victims' groups, police, academics, psychologists and criminal lawyers' associations. Some disagreed on Bill C-54's approach with minimum penalties. Some argued against minimum penalties. Some advocated for higher minimum penalties and some supported the reforms as proposed by this bill. But without exception they all agreed that child sexual abuse and the exploitation of children is a serious crime and must be treated as such. That is what this bill would do.

This bill proposes reforms to prevent the commission of sexual offences against children. It does so in two ways.

First, it proposes to create two new offences that target conduct that is preparatory to the commission of a contact sexual offence against a child.

The first offence would prohibit a person from making sexually explicit material available to a young person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual or abduction offence against that child. This offence recognizes that child sex offenders often give this type of material to their victims, often with a view to lowering their sexual inhibitions and making it easier to sexually assault them. If the material is child pornography, irrespective of the reason for which it may be given, this conduct is already prohibited. This bill would now prohibit providing other sexually explicit material for this specific purpose.

Our bill defines “sexually explicit material” in a manner that is consistent with its use and interpretation in the child pornography and voyeurism offences.

The proposed offence would apply to transmitting, making available, distributing or selling such material to a young person for this purpose and would apply whether it is provided directly in a face-to-face encounter or over the Internet.

The second new offence proposed is a prohibition against using telecommunications, such as the Internet, to agree or make arrangements with another person to commit one of the enumerated child sexual or abduction offences.

The existing prohibition in section 172.1 against using a computer system to communicate directly with a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of one of the enumerated child sex and abduction offences only applies where the communication is between the perpetrator and the child. It does not apply to a situation where, for example, one adult uses the Internet to communicate with another adult to agree with or arrange to commit a sexual offence against a third person, the child. Thankfully, this bill would close that gap.

There was much discussion at the justice committee about this new offence as to what the term “telecommunications” includes. How would the offence work? Does its formulation deny an accused legitimate defences and even legitimize police entrapment? The answer to that of course is no.

The term “telecommunications” is defined in the federal Interpretation Act as “the emission, transmission or reception of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds or intelligence of any nature by any wire, cable, radio, optical or other electromagnetic system, or by any similar technical system”.

Using such a broad but clearly defined term would ensure that this new offence would apply to the same prohibited use of new technology that may be created after this offence is enacted.

The new offence would operate in a similar manner to the existing luring a child offence that is found in section 172.1 of the Criminal Code. It includes the same provisions about presumed or reasonable but mistaken belief in the age of the child.

Like the existing luring a child offence, the common law defence of entrapment would still be available to an accused in the appropriate circumstances.

Bill C-54 also proposes to require a court to consider prohibiting a child sex offender and a suspected child sex offender under section 810.1 from having both access and opportunity to sexually molest a child. It proposes to expand the list of sexual offences for which such prohibitions could be included to include four prostitution offences where the victim is a child.

Courts would also be specifically directed to consider imposing two new conditions prohibiting the offender from having any unsupervised access to a young person or from having any unsupervised use of the Internet.

These conditions would help prevent the offender from being placed in a situation where he or she has access and opportunity to sexually assault a child, and from having unfettered use of the Internet or other similar technologies that are instrumental in the commission of child pornography and other child sexual exploitative offences today.

Witnesses before the justice committee were generally quite supportive of these proposed preventive measures.

There was some discussion of what is meant by these provisions' use of the term “the Internet or other digital network”. Bill C-54's use of “the Internet or other digital network” is consistent with its commonly understood meaning. It is also used in Bill C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act, which is currently before Parliament.

Clearly, the intention here is to direct the court to consider imposing such a prohibition where it is appropriate in the circumstances of the accused and the safety needs of the community and, as specifically directed by this bill, to impose the prohibition subject to any appropriate conditions as determined by the court.

I am confident that this proposal strikes the right balance in providing sufficient clarity and needed flexibility to enable the courts to craft a clear and understandable prohibition with any applicable conditions warranted by the circumstances of each case.

This is an important step forward in the protection of children in this country, and I am asking the House to pass this bill as rapidly as possible.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-54. We have dealt with a lot of justice issues in the House. I follow all of them very carefully and, when I have the opportunity, I contribute to the debate. I am not a lawyer, although I have often been accused of being one, so I often let the people who have done this for a living handle the major bulk of the debates, but I have always been very interested, as are all members.

I am pleased to see Bill C-54. I think there is some work to be done, and with this piece of legislation, I wonder whether not being a lawyer is a detriment or not. One thing that makes us interested in this legislation in particular is our being parents, as many of us are, or grandparents. That is not to say that people who are not parents do not have an interest in what is happening with children.

I have a child who is now a teenager and one who is getting there rapidly. I worry about what happens with my children. People worry in this day and age with the new communications tools that are available to children. We try to monitor them, but there are lots of different things that people worry about when it comes to the exploitation of children.

I have organized how I am going to speak to this bill for the next few minutes. There could be up to 30 million Canadians watching this and I want them to be able to judge their time. This bill is important. I want to talk about the sexual exploitation of children, what happens and how often it happens. I want to set it in the overall context of the crime agenda of the government, and I will have a few comments about what people have to say about it. Then I will come back to the bill and conclude.

As has been noted, Bill C-54 seeks to amend the Criminal Code to introduce or extend mandatory penalties for crimes against children of a sexual nature and to introduce two new offences. We support this legislation. We are very concerned about the safety of our children. We recognize that times are changing and there are different threats to our children than used to exist.

It was the former Liberal government in 2002 that made it illegal to deliberately access a website containing child pornography. In an age where new technologies have the negative effect of increasing access of our children, we need to be responsible and have a look at the Criminal Code to ensure it is up to date.

This bill would introduce mandatory minimum sentences for seven existing Criminal Code offences, including sexual assault on a person under 16 years of age, luring a child, and conducting an indecent act in the presence of a child. It would also increase mandatory sentences for seven sexual offences involving child victims.

I think generally members of the House are going to support this bill. I am not sure but I think the New Democrats and the Bloc are going to support sending the bill to committee. There is a legitimate concern, which I understand and in many ways share, about mandatory minimums. They are controversial. There is a lot of conflicting evidence as to whether mandatory minimums work.

We supported mandatory minimums as a government. The Liberal government brought in some mandatory minimums. We do not think they work in all cases, which I will get to later, but we think in this instance they are appropriate.

The Department of Justice has a family violence initiative website. Let me preface my comments by mentioning people who have come to my constituency office, as people go to the offices of all members, with their concerns. It is pretty disconcerting when they visit their MPs to say they think the law needs to be changed because of something that happened in their own families and then they provide the details of what happened to their children.

In many ways, we are powerless to help these folks. We want to reach out and help them. One way we can help them, of course, is by bringing their stories to Parliament to try to make sure the laws of the land respond to their concerns and the wishes they extend.

The family violence initiative website states:

The sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth may involve a range of behaviours....Sexual exploitation may involve prostitution as well as making children and youth participate in pornographic acts or performances for personal or commercial use.

Those are fairly serious issues. The question is:

HOW WIDESPREAD IS SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN CANADA?

Further on it states:

However, the available national data indicates that sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth is disturbingly common in Canada.

It was not recognized as a problem in Canada until the 1984 Badgley report. All evidence we have indicates that this is a very serious issue.

As to the extent of sexual abuse and exploitation, in 2002, 8,800 sexual assaults against children and youth were reported to a subset of 94 police departments in Canada. This included 2,863 sexual assaults against children and youth by family members. This is pretty disturbing. Sexual abuse was the primary reason for investigation in 10% of all child maltreatment referrals to social service agencies.

There is some very good information in terms of types of sexual abuse. According to the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, the most common form of substantiated child sexual abuse in child protection cases was touching and fondling of children. It goes on to talk about other things that are more graphic than that, which I probably do not need to recite here but which need to be brought to the attention of parliamentarians.

Who is doing these crimes? The perpetrators are more often individuals who know the victim rather than strangers. About half of sexual assaults against children and youth reported to a subset of police departments in 2002 involved friends or acquaintances, while a quarter of those assaults involved family members. About 18% involved assaults by strangers. Most but not all are male.

There is a bit of a pattern. We have some information that has been gathered over the years on who is committing these heinous acts against our children. What has been done about it? There have been a number of pieces of legislation that have been brought to this House, mainly by Liberal governments over the years.

Bill C-2, introduced October 8, 2004, proposing amendments to the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act that are intended to protect children and others who are vulnerable. It lists all the things that it did, expanding the scope of existing offences, narrowing the availability of statutory defences, composing the creation of new offences, voyeurism, proposes amendments allowing children and other vulnerable witnesses greater access to aids. I will mention a few of them.

Bill C-15A, proclaimed into force in July 2002, created new Criminal Code offences.

Bill C-7, which is the Youth Criminal Justice Act, replaced the Young Offenders Act. It holds young people accountable for their actions through interventions that are fair and in proportion to the seriousness of the offence committed.

Bill C-79, proclaimed in 1999, amends the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act to facilitate the participation of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process.

I will not go through all of the bills, but they include: Bill C-27 in 1997; Bill C-46 in 1997; Bill C-41 in 1995; Bill C-42; Bill C-72; Bill C-126; Bill C-49; and Bill C-15. These are all relatively recent pieces of legislation that address the issue of sexual exploitation of children.

We have to accept the fact that there is a problem. Part of that is the changing technology, the changing way children communicate with other children and adults, and sometimes we do not even know who our children are communicating with. I am sure I am no different from any other parent in this place in that we try to keep an eye on those sorts of things. We want our children to be aware of what is happening around them.

We support this legislation. I want to put this in context of the greater criminal justice agenda of the government. Today, we have come together. I think all four parties are speeding up the process so that we can deal with this bill and get it to the Senate so that it can be adopted. The Minister of Justice no doubt is very appreciative of the support of all parties so that we can get this done. However, he has not always been so appreciative of the support of the Liberal Party.

One of my favourite letters that I have seen, and I am sure the minister has had a chance to look at it extensively, is one from February 4 of last year. Senator Cowan sent a very affectionate letter to the Minister of Justice responding to concerns the government had that the Senate was holding up all kinds of legislation. I wonder if the minister remembers that letter.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Oh, I remember that. We had a lot of trouble with it.