Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-313.
Let us be honest, this bill is totally Conservative in its logic. As my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles was saying, we cannot support this bill, which proposes to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 years, as it is now, to 16 years.
Of course, the Bloc Quebecois agrees with what has been empirically recognized and scientifically observed, and what is just basic common sense, namely that, generally, it is not advisable to have sexual relations at 14. At that age, a person is still closer to childhood than to adulthood. Puberty may not even have started yet and it is certainly not advisable to have sexual relations.
I think I am not being overly moralistic if I say that when entering the world of sexuality, one must be prepared and have enough information about healthy sexual practices, about the meaning of commitment and, let us say it, about the loss of a certain naivety. Indeed, one's first sexual experience is a defining moment in one's life.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, I am 43 years old. Incidentally, I thank you for your kind wishes on my birthday this week.
I must say that, back in the days when I was in high school, sexual activity tended to start later than it does today. We even had a saying in Quebec about someone being a late bloomer in matters of sexuality. But we must recognize that things have changed.
Why do young people, at least some of them, start being sexually active earlier? Obviously, there are all sorts of theories on the subject. There has been investigative reporting into this matter. Apparently, there is a connection between early sexual activity and information. With Internet and the increased speed at which information is circulating, the shroud of mystery surrounding sexuality is lifted earlier for today's young people, who have access to information from an early age and, as a result, start experimenting with sex earlier.
Once again, we do not agree. We fully realize that not having sexual relations at age 14 is desirable. However, we are not prepared to go one step further, as proposed by the Conservative Party, and make it criminal, which would involve the judicial system. This would mean that charges could be laid against young people who had sexual relations.
This is the kind of unfortunate situation that shows how out of touch with Quebec realities the Conservative Party is. In the performance of my duties as an MP, I do not remember meeting many young people and many stakeholders who are in favour of criminalizing early sexual activity.
Should we not, as a society, work to provide information and ensure that sexual education classes are made mandatory instead? Sexuality should be discussed at home and in the young people's milieux. The objectives we pursue as a society would ensure that, by the time young people have their first sexual relations, they are informed and prepared.
Having sex for the first time signifies a loss of innocence. It truly marks the entry into adulthood. It should be entered into with complete responsibility and awareness.
Is there anything more beautiful than sexuality? When two people are attracted to one another and are ready to express their feelings by having sex, this should not lead to criminal charges. Obviously, they should be ready, prepared and fully informed.
With that caveat I would add that the Bloc Québécois is fully aware that extreme vigilance must be used in the entire issue of sexual exploitation. The Criminal Code, as we speak, includes provisions. The Supreme Court made a ruling in early 2000. Since the Sharpe case, more provisions have been added to the Criminal Code on sexual exploitation and also child pornography.
I know there is not a single member in this House who does not want Parliament to be extra careful in dealing with the issue of sexual exploitation. There is nothing more terrible, horrible and appalling than the thought of an adult sexually exploiting a child in a relationship that cannot be one of equals, given the traumatic effect this has on the child's development. The Bloc Québécois agrees that in the Criminal Code as well as in the application of the law, we must be extremely vigilant when it comes to sexual relations between adults and children.
If our colleague's bill were to pass, we could end up with the following situation. A 16-year-old boy has consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl. They are both very mature and fully capable of assessing the scope of their actions. They are moved by true love. They have protected sex. They have a satisfying and mutually agreed to sexual experience. However, because one of their parents, the girl's for example, disapproves of the choice in partner, charges could be filed.
Is that any way to handle this issue? We do not think the bill is very helpful.
I have done a bit of research on the age of consent. I have here a comparative table of various countries, and it shows that among most major democracies and large countries—large in terms of population, not hegemony of course—Canada comes out in a good middle position.
For example, the age of consent in Mexico is 12. We know Japan to be a relatively puritan society, and we are familiar with some characteristics of that culture, the little, sometimes nervous, laugh, people who are aware of their place, enterprising, ready to serve. Theirs is a society where order is valued and relations between people are clearly circumscribed. That does not mean, of course, that every Japanese is devoid of romantic thoughts. Nonetheless, it is surprising to learn that the age of consent in Japan is 13 years, that is a year younger than in Canada.
Austria, so famous for its romantic waltzes, which you yourself may have been entranced by, Mr. Speaker, in earlier days of course, has an age of consent of 14. In Iceland, that nordic country where beer flows in abundance amidst an atmosphere of celebration, the age is also 14 years.
Italy, that romantic Mediterranean country of pastas and wine—which sounds tempting as the weekend approaches—also has an age of consent of 14. In Denmark it is 15. in France, the country of Marianne, the eldest daughter of the Church, that most Jacobin French republic, the age of consent is 15.
I will close by saying that, regretfully, the Bloc Québécois will not be able to support this bill.