I'm just thinking about Mr. Comartin's fact scenario. In Mr. Comartin's fact scenario, under Bill C-22, a criminal offence has already taken place. You have a 21-year-old having sexual relations with someone who, in his fact scenario, was 15 years old. We're not interested, I don't think, in creating a situation where someone is able, then, after a criminal offence has taken place....
The whole idea with Bill C-22 and raising the age of protection is to prevent people who are more than five years older than a 14- or a 15-year-old from entering into relationships with them. So to somehow say that now we can make it all better and pretend that a criminal offence didn't take place by getting married is defeating the purpose of what we're trying to do.
We don't want to see a rush to the altar by these individuals who are in many cases in a position where they could have great influence over this individual. It might be a situation of duress. We've heard examples of where sometimes the young person was in this situation and may not be cooperative, but they're with someone who is significantly older.
I fail to see how this could be accomplished practically. There's already a transitional provision in the bill. To somehow make marriage a blanket defence or to be able to retroactively go back and pretend an offence didn't take place because at some point in the future you're going to get engaged and married, would be defeating the purpose of the bill. Where do you draw the line? If someone gives someone an engagement ring, that offence didn't take place?
It's very clear in this bill. Right now in Canada the age of consent is 14. We've heard witnesses overwhelmingly say that this is too low, that there are adults who are preying on 14- and 15- year-olds. So this bill raises it to 16.
If we allowed our imagination to really get carried away, we could come into some situations, but the statistics that I've seen from Statistics Canada don't bear out the concerns. Number one, in most provinces you have to be 16 to be married anyway, and that's the age of consent in this bill. Number two, in provinces where you don't have to be 16, you can still get married, under this bill. There's no conflict whatsoever as long as you're within a five-year close-in-age exemption. If you're not within the five-year close-in-age exemption, then in your scenario a criminal offence has already taken place. And that's the criminal offence that this bill tries to address.
I understand the intentions, but I can't support creating confusion--I think this is really what this could create--with something that we want to try to keep a very strong and straightforward message on.