Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
I must state right at the beginning that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of the principle of protecting society from dangerous sex offenders.
It must be kept in mind that I introduced Bill C-208 back in January of 2001, with a view to increasing the penalties for sexual offences involving minors. This bill also required any person who is convicted of such an offence to undergo treatment as the court directs. The governor in council would have had to make regulations setting out the situations in which the convicted person should undergo treatment. It is important to note that this type of treatment should in no case interfere with the bodily integrity of the convicted person. It should be psychological treatment only, because physicians agree that the predisposition to pedophilia, which is a sexual attraction to children under 10, is first and foremost a psychiatric problem.
As is evident, my bill really addressed sexual predators who prey on children and engage in pedophilia.
Why must we require psychological treatment for the perpetrators? According to André McKibben, a criminologist and therapist at Montreal's Pinel Institute, a criminal who has been cured of sexual deviancy will not reoffend. The results obtained at Pinel seem conclusive on this point and show a 50% reduction in repeat offences by repeat offenders.
Unfortunately, there is no legal obligation for a sex offender to go into therapy. Bill C-23, which we are debating today, does not raise this point either. I find this most unfortunate. I am, however, still in agreement with its principle and objectives, even though it could go further than it does.
I would like to tell our audience what this bill is all about. It is called Bill C-23, and its full name is “an Act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”.
It comprises 26 clauses. Its main purpose is set out in clause 2 as being to help police services investigate crimes of a sexual nature by requiring the registration of certain information relating to sex offenders.
This bill creates obligations. Clauses 4 to 7 deal with the obligations of sex offenders. A sex offender shall report in person to the registration centre within 15 days after: first, the order is made but he is not given a custodial sentence; second, he receives an absolute unconditional discharge if he is found not criminally responsible for the offence on account of mental disorder; third, he is released from custody pending the determination of an appeal; or he is simply released from custody.
Subclause 4(2) provides he must register again after a change of address, a change of name or surname, and every year as an update. It is important to emphasize this.
Clause 5 outlines the information the sex offender must provide. It is important to note that currently this clause lists the type of information the sex offender must communicate, namely his given name and surname, his date of birth, his gender, his home address and work address if applicable, his phone number, and the number of any mobile phone or pager in his possession. Also, the sex offender will have to provide the person who collects information with a description of any physical distinguishing mark such as tattoos.
Clause 6 sets out how the sex offender must provide notification of any absence or stay abroad.
As you can see all these clauses, namely 4(2), 5 and 6, are a very important part of the registration process.
Then come the responsibilities of persons who collect and register information. They have responsibilities. Such a person will register without delay in the database the information on the sex offender in a manner that ensure its confidentiality.
The sex offender will be entitled to receive a copy of the information, free of charge, either at the time of registration or promptly by mail. The sex offender may, at any time, ask that the information contained in the database be corrected if it contains an error or omission. Therefore, the person who collects information will have, without delay, to make the appropriate corrections as soon as requested by the sex offender.
The bill also provides for prohibitions and the protection of data.
Clauses 14 and 15 deal with the retention of information in the database, which will be part of the automatedrecords retrieval systemthat is maintained by the Royal CanadianMounted Police. The RCMP maintains an automatedcriminal conviction records retrieval system. The information will be kept in the database indefinitely except when there is an acquittal or pardon under the Criminal Code provisions on clemency.
Clause 16, which is very important, deals with the prohibited uses of the databank. The basic principle is a total prohibition except for people who are authorized in order to perform the duties provided for in Bill C-23.
The bill mentions specifically that authorization to consult the database is given to all police services for investigations on sexual crimes. The bill provides that the police service must have reasonablegrounds to believe the crime is of a sexual nature.
As mentioned in clause 16(2)(b), a person who collects information is authorized to consult the database to record or correct data.
Under clause 16(2)(c), a person who does research or statistical analyses can consult the database if he or she has been authorized by the RCMP under clause13. Before accessing the database, one must have authorization from the RCMP commissioner. It is very important to emphasize that this database will not be accessible just anybody.
Any employee of, or person retained by, the RCMP is also authorized to consult the database in order to maintain it, as is any person authorized by the Commissioner.
The third paragraph of clause 16 sets out that the data may only be matched for the purpose of an investigation of a crime where there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is of a sexual nature. The resulting matched data may only be used for the purpose of that investigation or a resulting prosecution.
The bill also contains offences resulting from failing to comply with the registry. The punishments contained in the bill apply to offenders who provide false information and anyone who contravenes the offences specified in section 16, which I just read.
The punishment for offenders varies from a $10,000 fine or imprisonment for six months, or both for a first offence of providing false or misleading information. For a second offence, the punishment can include a $10,000 fine or imprisonment for a term of not more than two years, or both.
This bill makes amendments to the Criminal Code. Clauses 20 and 21 of the bill would add sections 490.02 through 490.09 to the Criminal Code. Clause 20 of the bill designates the offences that require that information be provided.
They include: sexual offences involving children; invitation to sexual touching; sexual exploitation, incest, child pornography; luring a child by means of a computer system; stupefying or overpowering for the purpose of sexual intercourse; living on the avails of prostitution of a person under age of eighteen; sexual assault; sexual assault with a weapon; aggravated sexual assault; removal of a child from Canada; indecent acts; murder or manslaughter in commission of offences.
This bill also contains consequential amendments. The Access to Information Act, the Criminal Records Act, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act will be amended accordingly.
Clauses 22 to 25 of Bill C-23 will make the manager of a federal institution—this is important to highlight—responsible for any sharing of documents that contain information. The Access to Information Act is amended to prohibit any disclosure of information. This is in clause 22.
Clause 23 of the bill amends the Criminal Records Act to include orders relating to the mandatory registration of sex offenders and adds the list of restrictions.
Finally, the purpose of clause 24 is to coordinate this bill with the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
I agree completely that sex offenders should be centrally registered. Every year, I meet people from the Canadian Police Association who believe that such a system will help them better monitor sex offenders who move from one neighbourhood to another.
In my region, a woman by the name of Anne-Claude Girard has been a great success in recent years. She has been raising the public's awareness of sex offenders involved in pedophilia.
All the police officers I have met have said, “It is very worthwhile for someone to do that, but we do not have a registry to identify sex offenders, so they can just go somewhere else”. Someone could come into my region and I would have no way of knowing if he is a pedophile and no way of ensuring that he will not harm young people.
Therefore, it is important to have such a registry. The protection of our children is at stake. Unfortunately, I think that the government should have included in the bill measures that would ensure a psychological follow-up of sex offenders. Because, it must be said, sex offenders have mental problems which must be addressed so that they do not reoffend.
We must also offer support to victims and their families. Never think that convicting an offender will be enough for them. The victims will feel distress and despair for years, possibly for all their lives, because of what happened to them.
In recent years, I have met young people who are still going through a terrible time after having been abused by a pedophile. It hurts to hear young people come to our office and tell us, “It was not my body that was violated. It was my soul, the only thing that belonged to me”.
This bill should provide for assistance to help these young people cope. Many victims are even under the impression that they ran after trouble. That is wrong, they did not bring any of this upon themselves.
Why did the Minister of Justice not see fit to support these people through Bill C-23? It is all fine and well to have a registry, but there are still criminals and victims. I would have liked this bill to address the victims' perspective as well.
I suggest that the Minister of Justice ponder on this and amend his bill accordingly. I find it irresponsible to leave victims of sexual abuse without any government support.
This bill ought to have gone further. Like the Bloc Quebecois, I agree with the principle of protecting society against dangerous sexual predators. I would also have agreed with the minister if he had taken gone all the way by providing assistance to the victims as well as treatment for those who abused them.