moved that Bill C-400, an act to amend the Divorce Act (limits on rights of child access by sex offenders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, this is one of the most meaningful opportunities I have had in the nine years I have been in the House. I am bringing forward a bill concerning two little girls aged five and six, a bill with which I have become emotionally involved.
I believe in putting children first. My experience as a father of six and grandfather of twelve have given me a real feeling for children and what it is all about. I have talked many people about Bill C-400 during the last year. Things like the Sharpe case come to mind. People wonder how a guy with over 500 pictures of nude boys does not get a jail sentence. It is upsetting to people.
In our community a fellow was convicted nine times of being a pedophile and attacking young children. I asked in the House what I should tell the parents of the 10th victim. I was told offenders must be given a chance. A year later he picked up two little girls, a five and a six year old, and was in the process of assaulting them. They were his 10th and 11th offences.
When I get to this case I can hardly describe to members the emotions I feel. I will give the House some quick background. In Saskatchewan a doctor named Schneeberger married a lady named Lisa. She already had two children by a previous marriage, a boy and a girl, and together they had two little girls.
In 1992 one of Schneeberger's patients suspected something was happening on the examination table. The police were called in, blood samples were taken but there was no DNA connection. Lisa then discovered that her 13 year old daughter had been raped a number of times. A drug had been used on her and there had been repeated rapes over the course of about five years.
After taking numerous blood samples from what turned out to be a tube in the gentleman's arm, the police finally took a hair sample. The DNA matched. During that period the divorce occurred. Schneeberger had not seen the two young girls since they were less than two years old.
He was convicted in November, 1999. He was given a six year sentence for the assault and rape of a patient and of his 13 year old daughter. He was then sent to jail. The woman and her two little girls moved to Red Deer which is my constituency. Schneeberger managed to be transferred to Bowden which is some 30 kilometers away from my community but still in my constituency.
In the process Schneeberger made an application to a Saskatchewan court that the two little girls should pay forced visits to him on the last Sunday of every month and phone him every Monday and be on the phone for an hour. Of course the little girls cried each time this happened. They could not believe they would have to go into a jail setting.
This was appealed in a Red Deer court but the judge said it had to go back to Saskatchewan. A single mother on limited income trying to start a new life was told she had to go back to Saskatchewan to fight the case. She did not have the money. We managed to raise some money but not enough.
On May 27, 2001, a day I will never forget, we finally heard the news. The night before the visit was to take place we were told Lisa's five and six year old daughters would have to go into the prison to visit the man they had not seen for so many years, the man who had raped their sister in their home.
I was in a parking lot. I was to speak at a Kinsmen meeting some 15 kilometres away from the prison in Innisfail. I got the message when I stopped the car. I immediately called the local radio station to tell them the bad news. I told the Kinsmen club about it in my speech. The truckers broadcast it on truck radios across the province. They said if people were in the vicinity of Bowden on Highway 2, a busy highway, they should stop the next day to let people know they cared about the mother and her two kids.
Sunday morning came. It was a cool day. We went to a local hotel. A news conference had quickly been put together and was packed with media people. Lisa was there. Her daughter who had been raped was there. She is probably one of the bravest young girls I have met. She is now 19 years old and is carrying on with her life. She is a totally open and brave young person. At the news conference the usual questions were asked. Nevertheless they had to go to Bowden. The fine would have been $5,000 if they had not gone to Bowden prison that day.
When I arrived at the news conference I was surprised by the hundreds of people who were there. Big rigs had stopped and the police were there. I have so many memories of that day. I am sure it is the same for Lisa. One memory is that the people there wanted to block entry. They wanted to protect the mother and the two young girls. They said it was wrong that this had to happen in Canada. An RCMP officer told me he would love to be part of the protest because he had young children. The tears coming down his face had an impact on all of us but he was there to do his job. He had to provide entrance to the prison.
Lisa and the girls arrived. I cannot imagine what the drive must have been like for them. If it was traumatic for the adults in the crowd let us imagine what it must have been like for them. Lisa, the two girls and a psychologist arrived at Bowden some 35 kilometres away. The outpouring of support gave the adults strength. The common emotion everyone had is something I had never experienced before.
The crowd parted. The psychologist, the two little girls, Lisa and myself proceeded into the prison. We then entered the security area. The deputy warden met us. The guards made a point of saying they were not the ones making this happen. They did not think it should happen. They wanted us to understand that. Prior to that I had asked the attorney general if we could take them to a hotel somewhere under guard so the visit could occur there. I was told the man was too dangerous to take out of the prison.
We went through security. We were told this was to make sure we did not have weapons. There was tension as we passed through the gate. I have visited the prison before. Hon. members will recall that about 80% to 90% of the inmates are sex offenders. I will never forget the tension that was building in us. We entered the doorway. The door slammed and there we were in the waiting room.
Schneeberger felt he had a victory. He had used the court system and the Divorce Act against the lady who had testified against him. He hated her. Divorces are war. The two little girls, a five and a six year old, were the pawns that Sunday afternoon. As they entered the room and saw the man who had raped their sister they started to cry. They started to sob and then they grabbed their mother.
At that point I said this could never happen again. It cannot happen in a country like Canada. Fortunately we had a psychologist with us. The psychologist said it had to end because it was too traumatic for the children. She immediately ended the visit, took the children back to the vehicle and out of the prison.
The two young girls are still receiving psychiatric treatment. They still wake up screaming in the night. They were forced to go into the prison to go through that. As I say, I did not need any more motivation for creating Lisa's law, Bill C-400.
After that Mr. Schneeberger said he would not make them come back. However the law is still on the books. Every time the phone rings in Lisa's house she does not know whether it will be him on the other end of the line saying next Sunday she must go back to the prison. Next time there would be a lot more support for Lisa across the country. That is gratifying. It has given me hope for us all because thousands of people have phoned, written and communicated with Lisa. They have called their members of parliament and talk shows to say what they think should happen.
Every member of parliament should have received a card with a picture of Lisa on it. I had originally written the notes for the back, with Lisa's permission of course. However she wrote me a letter to give to all members of parliament, and when I read the letter I simply threw away my notes and put Lisa's letter on the back of the card. The letter on the back of the card is a true message. I did not edit it. I did not even talk to her about writing it. It is a true message from the bottom of her heart.
What do I want to accomplish with Lisa's law? It is not about access to children in prison. Everyone must understand that. All the lawyers I talked to advised me to make it specific. It is about sex offenders and pedophiles who force their children to visit them in prison probably to get at the other partner. It is not about wanting to see the kids. It is about the force involved.
Maybe the bill is not perfect. I have talked to a couple of my colleagues on the other side about how it could be made better. I trust the justice committee to make it better and fix it. I am not married to the wording. I am not a lawyer. However I want the bill to work and I want the problem to stop.
I think all members would agree that it is not a partisan issue. It is about not forcing kids to go into prisons against their will to visit pedophiles. It is not about kids visiting prisoners. That is a whole different issue. The bill does not cover that. Bill C-400 is about kids who are forced to visit sex offenders.
I will put something on the record so everyone understands. If after consulting with experts there is a mutual consent between the parents that having the kids visit would be good for the children and the prisoner, that is fine. That is not what I am after. I am after what I saw on May 27, 2001.
I believe that to be a slight defect in the Divorce Act. It can be fixed by this minor amendment to the Divorce Act. Lawyers tell me that it can be done very quickly. We must do it quickly so it will never happen again.
Some would say that we should not force judges or make decisions for them. In a case like this, it seems to me that all of us in this House were elected to make the laws. Yes, the judge needs guidance and needs to look at the child's best interest but the judge in this case said that because it was not written in the law he really did not have a choice and could not prevent access to those children. That was his interpretation.
What I am saying is that we need to clear that up for judges. The bottom line is that we need to make sure judges know what parliament thinks about pedophiles, about children and about putting children first. I look forward to suggestions from other members.
Lisa and her two young daughters are the people who should receive credit for this bill. They are the ones who went through this. They need to find confidence in this parliament, which I think will help us all. No matter what party we are from, I do not think this should ever have a party name on it. This is Lisa's law. It is dedicated to a single mom out there who is trying to make a life for herself.
Lisa is afraid of the publicity but she has committed to doing this. I think that is very important. She just happens to be a constituent of mine. I would not want any other MP to ever have to experience what I did on that Sunday in May. It was something that no one should ever have to go through.
Therefore I put forward today Bill C-400. It is the most emotional thing I have ever presented to the House. I feel more strongly about this than anything I have ever done. If we can make it better we should make it better. If someone votes against it, I and I do not think Lisa will be able to believe it. As I say, most of the people I have talked to right across the country would agree with that.
I thank all members who will be speaking on this and I trust that they will vote for it.