An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibited sexual acts)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Art Hanger  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 7, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

January 27th, 2003 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before the House this morning is, in my opinion, of special importance. The initiative of the Minister of Justice to restrict access to child pornography is an important measure and I want to assure the House that the Bloc Quebecois will work very seriously on this issue.

Protecting children is a fundamental principle in a society. Children are our greatest asset and they deserve all our attention and protection. They are the most vulnerable group in our society.

We could have a long debate on pornography in the broad sense of the term. However, in my opinion, child pornography is something that must be completely and fundamentally banned and prohibited, something that we must fight actively and strongly to prevent its spreading.

Not only is child pornography associated with a degrading sexual deviance, it also reflects a sick and degrading state of mind, for consumers, but especially for children.

It is not without a degree of emotion that I rise to address Bill C-20, because I am the father of two young children. I thought about my speech this morning for a long time, and I have been haunted by a terrible thought: what if my two sons fell into the hands of sexual predators or were sexually exploited by such depraved minds? This is why I am taking a particular interest in today's debate.

The Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of Bill C-20, because we feel that the minister's initiative deals with several important aspects of criminal law. It includes new provisions that have become necessary, given the particular nature of today's new technologies.

However, some clauses of Bill C-20 raise important questions, including those dealing with the issue of consent regarding sexual relations.

The Bloc Quebecois hopes to have some witnesses appear to discuss this issue and to examine all its aspects. Of course, we reserve the right and the privilege to move some amendments later on.

Bill C-20 makes fundamental changes two acts, the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act. The government hopes to make a number of amendments to the Criminal Code, particularly to:

(a) amend the child pornography provisions with respect to the type of written material that constitutes child pornography, and with respect to the child pornography defences;

The bill will also:

(b) add a new category to the offence of sexual exploitation of young persons and make additional amendments to further protect children from sexual exploitation;

(c) increase the maximum penalty for child sexual offences—

and

(d) make child abuse an aggravating factor for the purpose of sentencing;

In the same vein, it is important, under the circumstances, to:

(e) amend and clarify the applicable test and criteria that need to be met for the use of testimonial aids, for excluding the public, for imposing a publication ban, for using video-recorded evidence or for appointing counsel for self-represented accused to conduct a cross-examination of certain witnesses;

And finally, it is important, in terms of the Criminal Code, to

(f) create an offence of voyeurism and the distribution of voyeuristic material.

Bill C-20 “also amends the Canada Evidence Act to abolish the requirement for a competency hearing for children under 14 years of age”.

In order to make the most of the bill's objectives, it is important to carefully assess the law as it current exists. One of the significant concerns that we have deals with consent to sexual relations.

Currently, under the Criminal Code provisions concerning consent to sexual activity, the consent of a person under the age of fourteen is not a defence against charges of a sexual nature, such as sexual abuse, exhibitionism or fondling. This means that persons aged fourteen and older can give their consent.

This provision, as you know, is subject to an exception. The consent of a complainant can be a defence if the latter is between twelve and fourteen years of age, if the accused is more than twelve but under sixteen years of age, if the accused is less than two years older than the complainant and if the accused is not in a position of trust or authority towards the complainant.

Furthermore, a person in a position of trust or authority cannot sexually interfere with a person between the ages of fourteen and seventeen years, even if the minor consents. It is also important to remember that, obviously, child prostitution is illegal in Canada.

These provisions in the Criminal Code have been strongly criticized, namely by the Canadian Alliance, which wanted to change the age of sexual consent to sixteen. Among the arguments advanced in favour of raising the age of consent was that Canada might become a sex tourism destination simply because sexual relations with minors aged fourteen and up are not illegal here.

However, with such stakes, it is essential, urgent and necessary to think clearly. To this end, the Bloc has always been opposed to raising the age of consent to sexual relations. We believe, and let us be clear, that although it is preferable that children aged fourteen and fifteen do not have sex, this is the age that society in general seems willing to tolerate.

Furthermore, you will recall, this is what I said during the debate at second reading on Bill C-215 introduced by the member for Calgary Northeast last November 4.

I also drew attention to the doublespeak by the Canadian Alliance on this issue—and it is important that this be done. In fact, let us remember that during the debate on the Young Offenders Act, Alliance members thought a 14 or 15 year old child was responsible enough to be tried in adult court, but not responsible enough to consent to sexual activity. They were prepared to put this child in prison, because according to them he was criminally responsible, but he was not responsible enough to consent to sexual relations. What doublespeak.

In a different vein, in his proposal, the Minister of Justice creates a new concept of exploitation. Now, an adult will not be able to have sexual relations with a minor if the latter is placed in a position of exploitation with regard to the adult.

The criteria that will be used to determine whether there is exploitation in the relationship are the following: first, the age difference between the person and the young person; second, the evolution of the relationship; and third, the degree of control or influence by the person over the young person.

This may seem complicated. To simplify things, let us look at a specific example. Geneviève is 15 and in a relationship with Gilbert, age 45, whom she met in a bar. Geneviève is not dependant on Gilbert in any way. However, from the beginning of the relationship, Gilbert has showered Geneviève with gifts that are very expensive for a young girl her age. Very soon, Geneviève consents to sexual relations with Gilbert.

In this situation, based on current law, Gilbert is not guilty of any crime. Under the provisions proposed by the minister, Gilbert could be found guilty of an offence under section 153 of the Criminal Code and liable to imprisonment not exceeding ten years. In fact, their age difference is 30 years and the relationship is very recent.

It is important to point out that we have some reservations about these new provisions. First, they create uncertainty regarding the law, and this is never a good thing. A person of full age who has sexual relations with a minor will never be sure whether he or she is committing a criminal offence, since these provisions of the Criminal Code leave a great deal to the interpretation judges will make of the clauses that are proposed today.

This leads us to a second point. A parent who disapproves the sentimental choice of his or her minor child will always have the option of filing a complaint with the police, even though their reasons for doing so are not those anticipated by the legislator. This could add to the legal uncertainty.

Consequently, I reiterate the fact that the Bloc Quebecois is interested in hearing witnesses in committee on this issue. We are prepared to move amendments if necessary.

As I mentioned earlier, the rapid technological changes that have occurred in recent years have made it necessary to make some legislative changes, in order to deal with the new reality.

For example, the electronic cameras that transmit live images on the Internet have raised concerns about possible abuse, including the illegal observation or recording of persons for sexual purposes, or when such observation or recording is a blatant violation of privacy.

This is why the bill proposes to add two new offences to the Criminal Code. The first one would make it a criminal offence, in three specific cases, to deliberately and surreptitiously observe or record another person in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy. The first case would be when the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose. The second case would be when the person observed or recorded is in a place in which a person can reasonably be expected to be nude or to be engaged in sexual activity. Finally, the third case would be when the person is nude or is engaged in sexual activity, and the observation or recording is done for the purpose of observing or recording a person in such a state or engaged in such activity.

So, we are not talking about surveillance cameras in a shopping mall or in a parking lot, but in a place where a person can reasonably expect a minimum of privacy.

The second offence relates to distribution of material when aware that such material has been obtained by commission of the offence of voyeurism. This would also constitute a crime. The maximum sentence for all voyeurism-related offences would be five years imprisonment.

Finally, copies of a recording obtained by the offence of voyeurism for the purpose of sale or distribution could be seized or confiscated. The courts could also order deletion of any voyeuristic material from a computer.

The Bloc Quebecois feels that the legislative provisions relating to voyeurism were made necessary by the proliferation of surveillance cameras and the rapidity of distributing images taken by such cameras, via the Internet for instance.

Consequently, we are in favour of the provisions relating to voyeurism.

Now, let us move on to child pornography. Primarily, the new provisions on child pornography address two different aspects.

On the one hand, the present definition of child pornography applies only to material that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a child. Bill C-20 would expand that definition to include any material that describes prohibited sexual activity with a child where the written description of the activity is the dominant characteristic of the material and is done for a sexual purpose.

These new provisions raise a number of questions. First of all, it must be made clear that possession of child pornography is a crime punishable by five years imprisonment.

The new provision calls for any written material describing sexual activity with a person under the age of 18 to be considered a form of child pornography. Consequently, this would mean that someone who recorded in his personal diary fantasies, sick and twisted as they might be, of sexual relations of this nature would be committing a criminal offence and be liable to five years in prison, even if he or she did not show this document to anyone and no child was in any way involved in creating the document.

First of all, this provision strikes us as a broad one, and tantamount in a way to making thoughts a crime. The Minister of Justice counters that objection, however, by saying that we must interpret these provisions in light of the Supreme Court of Canada judgment in the Sharpe case.

In Sharpe, it is indicated that there are two types of material that must be excluded from the definition of child pornography: first, documents or representations that the accused alone created and retains solely for personal use, for example a diary, and second, visual recordings created by the accused or in which he is represented, which do not depict any illegal sexual activity and which the accused retains solely for personal use.

We find it hard to understand why the Minister of Justice did not integrate these exceptions into the Criminal Code. In fact, their absence will have the effect of creating legal uncertainty, because the Criminal Code will provide, even for an informed reader, a very imprecise definition of child pornography.

We plan to use the hearings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to hear witnesses on this issue. Of course, we will move amendments if we believe they are necessary.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2002 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and address Bill C-215 today. I want to start where my friend from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough left off, by congratulating the member for Calgary Northeast who has been relentless in bringing forward this bill. He is deeply concerned about children and that is a sentiment that is shared around the House.

But I also want to note that what is troubling about this is that it has been raised a number of times. While the issue is complex, and I agree with both the parliamentary secretary and also my Conservative friend that it is complex, there are some things that we all agree on. One of those things is this: I do not think that there is anybody in this place who believes that it is perfectly licit for an adult, a 35 year old or 40 year old man, to seek out and prey upon, for instance, a 14 year old girl. I think just about everyone in this place thinks that is wrong and that is the sort of thing we need to get at.

With respect, I think the parliamentary secretary was somewhat disingenuous when he tossed out red herrings about Bill C-215 not addressing things like luring over the Internet. He knows very well that this is not the intent of the bill. What my friend from Calgary Northeast wants to do is draw attention to something very specific. He wants the age of consent raised from 14 to 16 so that we do not see the type of activity that already has been referred to in the House, whereby adults prey upon naive young people who are not yet mature enough to distinguish between somebody who is preying on them and somebody who truly cares about them. That is what we are trying to get at. That is why my friend brought forward the bill. I wish the government would get that message instead of trying to get us off track with red herrings.

I remind the House that back on April 23 the official opposition, urged by our leader, the member for Calgary Southwest, who had only been our leader for a few weeks at that time, brought forward a particular supply motion which called for the age of consent to be raised to at least the age of 16. Sadly, most of the government members, and to their credit not all of them, voted against that. I would like to think that they were simply naive about what was at stake. I will not attribute anything to them other than that, because this is an issue that the public is deeply concerned about. I am sure that there is not a member in this place who has children who does not shudder at the thought of having their 14 year old son or daughter being preyed upon by somebody who is much older, preyed upon explicitly for the purpose of having sex.

Not awfully long ago, just a number of months ago, my friend from Lethbridge and I went to the border crossing at Coutts, Alberta. One of the things that the customs officials told us they were running into more and more was instances of sexual predators trying to lure young men and women into the United States. They would come up into Canada and try to pick them up and take them back across the border, or it would work in reverse. The point is that this is something that is increasing in prevalence. The government is not doing its job if it does not start to put in place some measures to begin to address this.

I acknowledge that in Bill C-15A the government did do something about this with its changes to the Criminal Code affecting Internet luring. The Canadian Alliance, by the way, was at the forefront of promoting that. We wanted that legislation in place. I am glad that the government followed our advice when it came to that. We were able to get the bill split so that we could pass it very quickly. We were happy to do that, along with other members of the opposition, but the government simply has not gone far enough.

Maybe the best way of making my point is to say that when one is involved in an area where there are a lot of complexities and it is unclear which way to proceed, my guidance to the government is to always proceed in a way that gives the benefit of the doubt to the potential victims. That is the answer. When we are not sure, we should err on the side of protecting victims, in this case, on the side of protecting children. Governments, in their misguided desire to be completely fair to everyone, think that is an excuse for not acting at all and that is unacceptable. It is unacceptable when we are talking about young children, 14 years of age and 15 years of age in this case. That is completely unacceptable.

It is my hope that in the discussions the justice minister says he will have with the provinces eventually, the government will bring forward legislation that reflects the intent of my friend's bill. As the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough pointed out, very often the government will stand up and decry particular pieces of private members' business only to turn around and adopt particular pieces of it later on and laud how wonderful they are and what a great job they are doing for the public. Let us hope that the government is not being disingenuous this time. I suspect that to some degree it is.

Of course I hope that in the end it adopts this legislation, but if it is going to do that then it should have the courage of its convictions and should congratulate my friend from Calgary Northeast for what he is trying to do, again to protect children. I see many good members on the government side right now who I know believe in the intent of my friend's bill. I hope that they push the justice minister and the parliamentary secretary to do the right thing and support this bill, although it is not votable, which in and of itself is a shame. Although it is not votable, we do hope that they will push the justice minister and the justice committee to do the right thing and adopt the spirit of Bill C-215 and also give credit where credit is due, and not just to my friend from Calgary Northeast. He has pointed out that there have been many others in this place and outside it who have promoted raising the age of consent to the age of 16. He has mentioned Chief of Police Fantino, the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and Focus on the Family Canada, headed up by our friend Darrel Reid, who does a wonderful job in promoting issues that protect and strengthen families.

All of these people deserve credit. I can assure everyone that this place would receive praise and accolades from the entire public if the government would quit dragging its heels on this important piece of legislation and adopt what my friend from Calgary Northeast is arguing for.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2002 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-215, introduced by my colleague from the Alliance. This bill, sponsored by the member for Calgary Northeast, could not be more directly linked with that party's dominant philosophy in favour of a harder line for the entire criminal justice system.

We need to look at the specific character of the legislative amendment proposed. It is no more and no less than a raising of the legal age of consent to sexual acts. The framework surrounding the concept of consent in the Criminal Code is a rather complex one, but can be summarized in three points.

First, the consent of a person under the age of 14 years is not a defence against a charge of sexual aggression, exhibitionism, sexual touching and the like.

This means that a person over the age of 14 years is in a position to give consent.

Second, there is an exception to this rule. Plaintiff consent may be a defence if:

the accused (a) is over 12 and under 14 years of age;

(b) is 12 years of age or more but under the age of 16;

(c) is less than two years older than the complainant; and

(d) is neither in a position of trust or authority towards the complainant nor is a person with whom the complainant is in a relationship of dependency.

Third:

a person in a situation of authority or trust may not have sexual contact with a person aged 14 to 17, even if the minor consents.

In attempting to make the legal framework more strict for sexual activities involving youth, the Canadian Alliance hopes to protect their virtue. However, there is a contradiction in the approach of the Canadian Alliance when it comes to youth justice. Allow me to explain.

The purpose of the Alliance proposal is to increase the age of consent from 14 to 16. First off, in our opinion, there is not much to debate about this. We know that young people engage in sexual activities at a younger age and the prevention campaigns that have been created for them work relatively well.

We believe that an approach based on listening to young people and sincere dialogue with youth works much better when it comes to sexual education than the punitive approach that the Canadian Alliance promotes.

The society in which we live has evolved considerably, so much so, that what used to be considered taboo is now discussed with complete openness and with a sometimes alarming candour. This is more the case in Quebec, which has the well-earned reputation of being the most liberal society in North America, when it comes to these matters; more so than the rest of Canada.

But, and this is where it gets touchy for the Canadian Alliance, what is the logic behind that party wanting to legislate the raising of the age of sexual consent, when in the whole debate on tightening the Young Offenders Act, it called for the age at which children can be tried in adult court to be dramatically lowered.

Indeed, in the debate on the young offenders bill, the Canadian Alliance supported an approach described as a hard line approach whereby 16 and 17 year olds, as well as 14 and 15 year olds charged with serious crimes, would be tried before adult court. This was in its own platform.

Now these 14 and 15 year olds, who are apparently mature enough to commit crimes, would not be able or capable of consenting to sexual activity? This is definitely double talk.

The Canadian Alliance's reasoning does not hold water. The initiative before us is, once again, a reflection of the Alliance's propensity to take a piecemeal approach to amending the Criminal Code, depending on the personal opinions of its members or popular trends in western Canada.

What they are suggesting would inevitably result in an unmanageable legal mess and would run counter to the fundamental principles of the administration of justice.

The objective pursued by the Alliance would be counterproductive in that it would criminalize the personal activities of young people on the basis of their age, instead of protecting them from sexual predators. To conclude, the Bloc Quebecois opposed this legislation in the past and remains opposed to it for the two main reasons mentioned earlier: while it may not be desirable for young people aged 14 and 15 to have sexual relations, the provisions referring to this age reflect what society is prepared to tolerate. The Canadian Alliance is using double talk.

In the debate on young offenders, they argued that adolescents 14 or 15 years of age were mature enough to be held criminally responsible for their actions, but in this debate on the age of sexual consent, they are arguing that the 14 year olds are not mature enough.

Consequently, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the bill, even though it is not a votable item.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2002 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-215, an act to amend the Criminal Code respecting certain prohibited sexual acts. I welcome the opportunity to speak to the bill because, and as the hon. member has stated, the objective of the bill is important, namely, to better protect our children against sexual exploitation. The government's commitment in this regard is clear and strong. It is committed to protecting children from sexual, and indeed, all forms of exploitation.

As stated in the Speech from the Throne, the government believes that Canadians have a collective responsibility to protect our children from exploitation in all its forms. The government is committed to reforming the Criminal Code to increase penalties for abuse and neglect, and to provide more sensitive treatment for children who participate in criminal justice proceedings as victims and as witnesses.

Although we can agree on the importance of the bill's objective, the government does not support it. Bill C-215 addresses an issue which hon. members know has received considerable attention in recent months. The government welcomes this debate today for it is through such discussions that we are able to broaden the knowledge and understanding of the issue at hand.

I would like to take a moment to review the facts about the minimum age of consent in Canada. I want to do this because I am aware that the discussion of this issue in recent months has sometimes reflected a misunderstanding of Canada's criminal laws that protect children against sexual exploitation. This is not entirely surprising because the issue of the age of consent to sexual activity is complex.

The Criminal Code sets the age of consent at 14 years of age for most purposes, but there are two notable exceptions. First, where the relationship is exploitive, the age is set at 18 years. For example, the consent to sexual activity by a young person who is 14 years of age or older but under the age of 18 years is not valid where the older person is in a position of trust or authority over the young person, or the young person is in a position of dependency upon that older person. The age is also set at 18 for purposes relating to prostitution and child pornography. These are important facts that seem to not find a proper expression today.

Second, where the young person is close in age to the older person, the age of consent can be 12 years where the older person is 12 years or older but under the age of 16, is less than two years older than the younger person, and is not in a position of trust or authority toward the younger person, and the younger person is not in a relationship of dependency with the other.

I want to be clear on this. Any non-consensual sexual activity, no matter what the age, is sexual assault. I also want to note that the general minimum age of consent to sexual activity has been 14 years of age since 1890 when it was raised from 12 years of age. The issue of age of consent to sexual activity is a complex issue. It is an issue on which there is a divergence of opinion.

At the end of 1999 the Department of Justice launched a comprehensive public consultation and review of the need for further criminal law reforms to enhance the criminal law's protection of children. This consultation and review focused on the need for criminal law reforms relating to specific offences against children, sentencing, facilitating child victim and witness testimony, and the minimum age of consent.

Hon. members will recall that the Minister of Justice discussed the results of this consultation and review with provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice in February of this year. Ministers then directed federal, provincial and territorial senior officials to develop follow-up responses for consideration by ministers. I can indicate to hon. members that this matter will be discussed at the current meeting of the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice in Calgary this week. I suggest that we should await the outcome of these discussions.

I believe that Canadians do want to better protect children against sexual exploitation, including new forms of sexual exploitation, and yet, Bill C-215 does not respond to this concern.

Last year the government introduced Bill C-15A, which included amendments to the child pornography provisions of the Criminal Code. Bill C-15A created a new offence of using a computer system, such as the Internet, to lure a young person for the purposes of committing one of the enumerated sexual offences against the child. This new offence is now found in section 172.1 of the Criminal Code and I am pleased to note that it was proclaimed on July 23, 2002.

Recent media accounts indicate that this new offence is being used to charge persons who have used the Internet to lure persons under the age of 14 years, yet Bill C-215 does not address this new offence of luring.

Bill C-215 does not address section 810.1 of the Criminal Code which permits the granting of a recognizance order or peace bond to prohibit a defendant from attending specified places, such as parks and school grounds, where children under the age of 14 years could reasonably be expected to be found and there would be reasonable grounds to believe the defendant would commit a sexual offence against a child.

I note these two omissions to illustrate my point that the issue of the age of consent to sexual activity is complex. There are many related provisions in the Criminal Code to protect children against sexual exploitation and abuse. We must take care to ensure that any legislative reform in this area is responsive to the concerns at hand, is reflected in all related Criminal Code provisions, and does not have unintended negative consequences. Bill C-215 does not do this. For all these reasons, the government does not support Bill C-215.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2002 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

moved that Bill C-215, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibited sexual acts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that I have risen in the House to speak on this bill. The basic premise of Bill C-215 is to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 years of age.

The bill has been introduced into the House for the fifth time now and it is the second time for debate. None of those times of course resulted in the bill becoming a votable item on the agenda in the House. Needless to say I am disappointed that the bill, which is aimed at protecting children, would be deemed non-votable by members of the subcommittee on private members' business.

I first would like to acknowledge those who have fought relentlessly in their efforts to protect children and in particular those who have really sought to raise the age of sexual consent even higher than what is proposed in the bill, which is 16. Some even have deemed it necessary to raise it to the age of 18, with which I have to agree. However, I will bring to the attention of the House and to the public at large some of those who have really fought hard for this.

First on my list is Focus on the Family. Dr. Darrel Reid is the chief director of Focus on the Family and has been very much aware of the political inhibitors to issues like this and others that are out to protect children.

Another organization that has struggled for years and has probably put out more material outlining why things have gone the way they have with legislation regarding the protection of our children than any other organization I know of is the Canada Family Action Coalition, Mr. Brian Rushfeld. My hat is goes off to him too.

Also the Canadian Police Association has been consistent in its delivery of the need to increase the age limit. The hands of all police officers and social workers have been tied. They know many children are at risk but they cannot do a thing about it because the so-called age of consent has really been difficult for them to get around. Some have resorted to other means in trying to protect children, but unfortunately the law does not work to their benefit.

I would also like to acknowledge the Canadian Chiefs of Police and in particular, Chief Julian Fantino of the Toronto Metro Police Department. Chief Fantino has been instrumental in bringing this issue to the attention and focus of the police departments and the different agencies, those that have come together to help fight the whole issue of child exploitation. Chief Fantino has travelled the world looking at other jurisdictions. He knows what is happening worldwide, and is probably a leading expert on enforcement when it comes to child exploitation laws. Again, I want to acknowledge Chief Fantino.

I would also like to acknowledge the tens of thousands of Canadians who have signed petitions over the years. They have sought to have the age of consent raised since I have been in Parliament. I delivered this message on their behalf to Parliament that they wanted to see something very significant happen in the laws that would protect children. This so far has fallen on deaf ears.

There are another probably three groups of people that I would like to acknowledge and thank. Journalists from every media who have carried profound stories of child abuse exposing the shortcomings in the present law. Phenomenal articles have been written and programs have been aired over television and radio about child abuse and exploitation. Information is there which makes it very clear that there is a need for change.

I would also like to acknowledge the justice ministers from the various provincial governments and concerned politicians who are now pushing for change. I know that presently in Calgary the justice ministers from all the provinces are meeting and will be meeting with their federal counterparts. This will be one issue that will be debated and discussed. I can only hope that common sense prevails here because this is long overdue.

Those sitting in the seats of power across the way have had ample opportunities to make this change and have failed to do so, but here is another opportunity. I support the endeavours of the federal government Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General, who will be meeting with their counterparts in the provinces, to put this issue on the table and make it happen, make it reality.

I would also like to acknowledge one other group here. Information, as it flows, comes from various sources but the most heart-rending of all stories are those from the children who have now become adults and who were in abusive situations at the hands of predators with evil intent. Their stories really have kept this momentum to raise the age of sexual consent. Their stories are the ones that are most profound and should have the greatest impact on what is about to happen. They should have an impact in Parliament where, while there is room for strong debate on these issues, there has to be some action. I hope their stories ultimately will be the ones that will push the government to do something. I commend those who have suffered abuse for their courage to tell their stories openly and publicly.

How did we get to this point of such a low age of sexual consent? That is a question that many have asked in the past. Some of it is rather fuzzy as to why this happened. At one time, before 1987, the age of sexual consent was 18. How did it all of a sudden get dropped dramatically to age 14?

In 1987 the Mulroney government, the Conservative government of the day, reduced the age of consent for sexual activity from 18 to 14. It was no longer criminal to engage in sexual activity of various kinds with youngsters between the ages of 14 and 18. Since that time the Liberal government has made no attempt to change this law, but I suspect that things are about to change. Hopefully it will see the light and adjust this to protect our kids.

One might ask how the current law hurts our children. First, the papers have been full of stories of predators attacking our kids. These are only the known stories and they hit our newspapers on a daily basis. I do not think there is a member in the House who does not have some situation in his or her riding that reflects the abuse of a predator on a youngster under the age of 16, 15, maybe even 14, and many even younger than that.

It is not to say that raising the age would eliminate predators. That is another issue for another day. I have introduced a private member's bill which will be subject to a one hour's debate on that in the future.

There are many predators out there. Their intent is to put themselves into positions of trust and work their way into positions of authority. What happens then is that they are sitting in a situation where we have our most vulnerable and they are able to attack them. Unfortunately they are not treated harshly enough. The average sentence for a pedophile is just over a year. That is the average. What does a pedophile do? He attacks the young, the vulnerable. That is appalling. Yet that is what has happened.

One of the high profile cases to which I want to relate, and many do, is a prime example of what is happening in our society. I am speaking of John Robin Sharpe, a pornographer. He likes making movies of little kids, distributing and selling them at a profit. This is his forte in our society. Back in August this man, after being charged previously, was charged with indecent assault and gross indecency. The allegations involved a boy who was 12 to 13 years old at the time. Mr. Sharpe had befriended the boy some time back in 1979. It takes a long time for things to come to light sometimes, especially when we see the impact of this kind of attack on our children. It takes a while for them to come to grips with these things. There were other victims as well and it required a lot of follow-up investigations.

I have been a police officer myself for 22 years. I had cause to assist in some of these investigations while working in the major crime section of the Calgary Police Department. I know what kind of resources and special training it takes to work with youngsters who are subject to this kind of abuse. It takes a lot. The resources are never enough because this crime has become more insidious. That is why we must take these characters out of our society for a long period of time so that our children would be much safer.

Another problem is how this current law affects and hurts our children. Agencies are loaded with all kinds of work and they cannot keep up with all the complaints coming in. As a result there are some predators out there who are not apprehended, not detected and unfortunately they are victimizing others.

How else does that law hurt our children? Unfortunately there are organizations and individuals out there wanting more liberalization in the law. I could go on and on. I could read from the bill what kind of offences are involved here: everything from pimping youngsters of 14 years of age to subjecting them to degrading sexual acts for pornographers. It goes on and on. By raising the age of consent the bill would impact on numerous sections of the Criminal Code.

I trust, hope and pray that the provincial justice ministers and the federal justice minister reach a decision on raising the age of consent.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

October 7th, 2002 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-215, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibited sexual acts).

Mr. Speaker, I rise to reintroduce my private members' bill which seeks to raise the age of sexual consent from age 14 to age 16. I first introduced this bill in 1996, reintroduced it in 1997, 1999, 2001, and now again in 2002.

In this country we do not vote, consume alcohol or fight in the military until age 18, yet it is legal for a child at the age of 14 to engage in sexual activity, according to our Criminal Code.

With the increase in child pornography and child prostitution it is now more urgent than ever to raise the age of consent to protect the young and vulnerable in our society from sexual predators among us.

I urge hon. members to give the bill full and fair consideration.

(Motion deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)