Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Abbotsford for his hard work on Bill C-277 and for bringing it to this House.
I would also like to comment on some of the addresses that have been made in the House.
The Liberal member said that more information is needed to find out whether or not this bill is on the right track. Then let us send this bill to committee so we can have that debate and let us hear from the witnesses.
The Bloc has said that rehabilitation is needed. Let us send the bill to committee so that we can hear from the witnesses how to rehabilitate these pedophiles.
The NDP has just said that we need to prevent the crime and provide the tools. Let us send this bill to committee so that we can find out what tools are needed.
Bill C-277 addresses the seriousness of a criminal behaviour that targets our children: Internet luring.
Since 2002 it has been a crime in Canada to use the Internet to communicate with a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of child sexual exploitation or abduction against a child. Because we criminalize this behaviour, we have to be able to track for the first time the prevalence of this type of activity.
Over 600 Internet luring cases have been referred to the police by Cybertip since 2002. The trend seems to show that it is becoming an increasingly more common problem.
Cybertip has been Canada's national tip line for child sexual exploitation on the Internet. It has been in operation collecting valuable data and referring child sexual exploitation cases to the police since 2002. The data provided by Cybertip.ca and the anecdotal evidence that has been collected over the last four years paints a disturbing picture of a typical Internet luring case.
Picture a man in his mid to late 30s who portrays himself as a 17-year-old boy, who spends his time online in teen chat rooms. Now picture a young girl, 13 years old, who likes to chat with her friends in the teen's chat room, where the conversations get a little racy. Imagine this man gaining the trust of this young girl, striking up a friendship, talking about life, love and sex. Imagine this man taking the relationship to another level, telephone calls, using webcams and perhaps even in-person meetings. This is a typical scenario and escalation of events in cases where a real victim is at risk.
This criminal behaviour is becoming increasingly prevalent, which means that Canadian children are increasingly at risk.
When the luring provision was originally enacted, it was introduced to address a problem. The problem was not related to luring per se because luring itself is not a new phenomenon but one that has been greatly facilitated by the Internet and its associated technologies.
The problem with the act of luring, the grooming and enticing of a young person, was at that time there was no specific offence of luring to commit a child sexual offence and it fell short of an attempt to commit a child sexual exploitation offence. Canadian jurisprudence that dealt with the issue of attempts required that the act, which would constitute the attempt, would be more than mere preparation. It would be difficult to characterize chat or email as more than mere preparation, hence, the creation of the offence of luring a child. The new offence criminalized communicating for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a child sexual exploitation or abduction offence.
Why is all of this very important? Because this is how the current penalty of the luring provision was determined.
Under the Criminal Code the penalty for attempts is half that of the substantive offence that was attempted. Therefore, since the new luring provision, in a way, criminalized activity that was somewhat less than what could normally be characterized as an attempt, it was seen as appropriate that the penalty should be half of what the other child sexual exploitation offences carried.
Today we look at Internet luring very differently. The prevalence of this criminal behaviour and the risk of physical contact have been two supporting factors for treating this crime more seriously.
However, it is the direct contact that is made between the predator and the victim via the Internet, where a relationship of trust is created for the sole purpose of exploiting the young person and betraying his or her trust, which escalates this behaviour above that of an attempt and puts it onto a level with that of the other child sexual exploitation offences.
The last time we debated the bill, a number of questions were posed in relation to it. After careful consideration of its aims and purposes, I think we may have the answers to those questions.
If members will allow me to refresh the collective memory of the House, the questions were the following. Does the existing penalty of Internet luring adequately reflect the serious nature of this offence, particularly in comparison to other contact child sexual offences? Would the proposed new maximum penalty be consistent with the penalty with contact child sexual offences? Would it be consistent with other measures that are currently before Parliament, including Bill C-9, which proposes Criminal Code reforms to prevent the use of conditional sentences for offences that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment or more?
These are good questions. I believe I have already answered the first question, in that the current penalty scheme does not adequately reflect the seriousness of this type of criminal behaviour. Internet luring should be treated in the same way as the other Criminal Code offences relating to child sexual exploitation.
Second, Bill C-277, as amended, which calls for increasing the maximum penalty on indictment and summary conviction for the luring offence to 10 years and 18 months respectively, is completely consistent with the maximum penalties for the other child sexual exploitation contact offences. Only two child sexual exploitation offences continue to have a five year maximum penalty on indictment. Both are related to child pornography, possession and accessing, where contact with the potential child victim is not an element of the offence.
Finally, the bill is also complementary to government bills currently before the House, namely Bill C-9, on conditional sentence of imprisonment, and Bill C-22, on the age of protection. Bill C-277 also fits into the government's priority on tackling crime and, more specifically, on treating child sex exploitation crimes more seriously.
If enacted, Bill C-277 would, by virtue of raising the maximum penalty on indictment for the luring offence to 10 years, bring the offence up to the threshold contemplated in Bill C-9, which would remove the possibility of a conditional sentence, or house arrest, if the accused was prosecuted by the way of indictment.
Bill C-9 in its current form proposes to remove the possibility of conditional sentencing orders, which we commonly refer to as house arrest, for all serious crimes. Bill C-9 currently defines serious crimes as those crimes that carry a penalty of 10 years or more on indictment. The use of conditional sentencing in child sexual exploitation cases has been seriously criticized and Bill C-277 and Bill C-9 together will answer that criticism in part.
BillC-22, on the age of protection, although not directly linked to the penalty enhancements that are being proposed in Bill C-277, will expand the protective shield of section 172.1, the luring offence. Currently all children under 14 years are fully protected by section 172.1, but only some youth between 14 years and 18 years are protected by it. When Bill C-22 is enacted, the full protection of the luring offence will be extended to all children under 16 years.
New technologies, including the Internet, have created new opportunities for Canadians, and for the most part they have been extremely positive. However, they have also created new opportunities for would-be child molesters to anonymously and secretly enter into our homes through the Internet with a view to sexually exploiting our children.
Since its enactment in 2002, section 172.1 has served as a useful and effective tool for law enforcement and has resulted in convictions. In a recent Nova Scotia case, Kevin Randall was convicted of Internet luring as a result of engaging in explicit online communications with a person he believed was a 13-year-old girl but who was in reality an undercover police officer. The offender had arranged to meet the 13-year-old girl at a coffee shop, where the police apprehended him with a pocketful of condoms.
Clearly, section 172.1 is an important tool for law enforcement and it is being used to successfully secure the conviction of offenders. Our obligation as parliamentarians--