An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Ed Fast  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to increase from five years to ten years the maximum punishment for an offence under section 172.1 (luring a child). It also specifies that, in the case of a summary conviction for this offence, the maximun punishment is eighteen months.

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.

Votes

Oct. 4, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Message from the SenateRoyal Assent

June 22nd, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend Her Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber Her Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts--Chapter 15;

Bill C-294, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (sports and recreation programs)--Chapter 16;

Bill S-6, An Act to amend the First Nations Land Management Act--Chapter 17;

Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts--Chapter 18;

Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts--Chapter 19;

Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child)--Chapter 20;

Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act--Chapter 21;

Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification--Chapter 22;

Bill C-60, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2008--Chapter 23;

Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption)--Chapter 24;

Bill C-47, An Act respecting the protection of marks related to the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games and protection against certain misleading business associations and making a related amendment to the Trade-marks Act--Chapter 25;

Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Geneva Conventions Act, An Act to incorporate the Canadian Red Cross Society and the Trade-marks Act--Chapter 26;

Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act--Chapter 27;

Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a movie)--Chapter 28;

Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007--Chapter 29;

Bill C-288, An Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol--Chapter 30.

It being 12:23 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, 2007, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

The first session of the 39th Parliament was prorogued by royal proclamation on September 14, 2007.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 28th, 2007 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, like the other opposition parties, I rise to indicate, although a private member's bill, that I expect the NDP as a caucus to be supporting Bill C-277. It addresses an issue that is quite valid and needs attention with regard to putting some proportionality into the sentencing of the offence of luring a child by way of the Internet.

I was reading over my notes when I originally spoke to the bill at second reading. I had said to the member who presented the bill that it was a good endeavour on his part because of the proportionality issue he was addressing.

It would be helpful if we the current government, and quite frankly the previous government as well, could have done the same thing. There are all sorts of other sections within the Criminal Code where the issue of proportionality is not addressed properly.

We have offences that any objective observer would say this is the range of penalties that we should give our judges discretion to impose. In another context of the code, we have other crimes that are of a similar nature, but the ability of the court to give a wider range of sentences is not available. That permeates a number of sections of the Criminal Code.

Although the bill addresses the issue with regard to this charge, I take this opportunity not only to express my support for the bill but to encourage the government to look at the code overall. Hopefully at some point, as I have said to the point where I am even irritating myself in having to repeat this, we will have an omnibus bill that would correct these types of anomalies in the code.

Again, I congratulate the member who has moved this and pushed it through the committee. He was persuasive at the committee in convincing us it was an issue that needed to be addressed, and it has been addressed appropriately. I look forward to seeing it passed in the House, perhaps even unanimously.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 28th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to speak to Bill C-277 at report stage. This is a bill that affects what is most precious in my life, and that is my children. In my opinion, all my colleagues from all the parties agree with me when I say that one of our roles here is to ensure the safety of all our fellow citizens and to use the utmost diligence in protecting and defending the interests of the most vulnerable in our society. Clearly, young children are included in that group.

With the growing use of the Internet, children face a rapidly changing and perhaps less friendly world. More importantly, those who exploit our children are becoming increasingly bold in their attempts to gain access to them.

As the mother of two children, including one adolescent, this reality is quite significant because I am fully aware that for an adolescent, the Internet, and chat rooms, are a big part of their lives. All parliamentarians have to ensure the protection of these children so that they can freely engage in all their favourite activities on the Internet without falling prey to malevolent people. Unfortunately, we hear too many stories in the media about children being lured on the Internet.

Bill C-277 gives rise to certain questions on the matter. What is an appropriate punishment for having lured children over the Internet? There are many opinions. Depending on the circumstances, for the victim's loved ones, a 10-year prison sentence, as set out in the bill, is perhaps not enough. However, although the bill increases the penalty, my main concern is that it does not focus enough on preventing such crime or on providing tools to prevent such terrible situations from being repeated.

Indeed, is the protection of children best served by a maximum sentence of 10 years, rather than five? Canadians need to know that the Criminal Code already contains provisions regarding the luring of children. We are not starting from a situation in which the law needs to be created. The offence already exists in the Criminal Code, in section 172.1 to be precise, and that is the provision that the member’s bill aims to amend.

We are in favour of this bill and, I believe, we are going to support it. It has already been examined in committee. Although the penalty has been increased to 10 years and we do not necessarily agree that it should be 10 years, nevertheless, there is no minimum sentence, and we support the member's bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 28th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the member who presented Bill C-277 for not rising to the attempts of his colleague to bring partisanship into the debate on the bill. His bill received support from all parties and members on the justice committee.

The reason why Bill C-277 received that support was because the bill was based on fact, on science and on evidence. The member was able to show all of that before the committee. The bill was not based on fearmongering. The bill did not risk bringing into disrepute or even worse, in some cases, destroying a very strong tenet of our criminal justice system. Therefore, I appreciate the response the member just gave to his colleague.

I will simply repeat that, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, the caucus, we will support Bill C-277, as we did in committee and as we did in the House to send it to committee.

We had concerns about one aspect of it. That was corrected in committee, with the agreement of all members of the committee. I commend the member for bringing Bill C-277 before the House.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 28th, 2007 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-277, which addresses the luring of children over the Internet for sexual purposes.

This bill does two things. It doubles the maximum sentence for luring a child from 5 to 10 years in prison. It also increases the maximum sentence for a summary conviction luring offence from 6 to 18 months in prison.

I would be remiss if I did not express my gratitude to those members of the House who supported the bill at the justice committee. Originally at second reading my bill did not receive unanimous support and some members of the House expressed reservations about certain aspects of it. At committee, however, I believe those fears were allayed and I was pleased to see that the bill was supported unanimously and referred back to the House. Clearly, we have all recognized how important it is for us to protect the most innocent among us, namely our children, against predators who want to use and abuse modern technology to sexually exploit them.

There may still be some who ask why the bill is necessary. As I mentioned at committee, I am blessed to be the father of four beautiful daughters. They, together with my wife, are the most important people in my life. Annette and I have done everything we can to protect our daughters from those who would take away their innocence and cause them lifelong harm. Thankfully, our daughters are now all moving into adulthood as caring and responsible human beings, but there was a time when they were much more vulnerable than they are now.

As technology continues to improve and change, the challenges which parents of young children face become more and more daunting.

The Internet is quickly becoming the platform of choice for those who want to sexually abuse our children. Sexual predators no longer have to hide behind bushes in schoolyards. They now lure children from the privacy of their homes and hide their identities and ages behind the anonymity of their computers in chat rooms, forums, instant messaging, and even websites like MySpace.com.

Canadian children, in turn, are exposed as a result of inadequate supervision at home and the use of computers at unsupervised locations. Even more critical, children often do not have the maturity to identify, avoid and protect themselves against the risks of using the Internet. They generally do not have the same ability to discern between what is safe and what is not. Sexual predators understand this and exploit this vulnerability.

As members know, the Internet is a powerful tool for both good and evil. Just as it has a vast potential to educate and improve our lives, the Internet is also a powerful force in perpetrating crime and harming people. Our laws have not kept up with this reality.

Case in point. The current maximum sentence for Internet luring in Canada is five years in prison. In that respect, our country lags far behind others, such as the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, which have all acted to criminalize Internet luring. In those jurisdictions, the sentences are significantly higher.

In the U.K. for example, legislation calls for a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. In Australia it is 15 years. In the United States the federal government enacted legislation that calls not only for a maximum of 30 years, but a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. Even individual states have also introduced their own laws against Internet luring with maximum sentences commonly in the 10 year range.

Clearly, if the maximum sentence is a reflection of the importance which we place on protecting our children, we need to do more.

Statistics from across North America indicate that child luring is becoming more and more prevalent. Anyone wishing to understand the scope and nature of child luring need only watch NBC's To Catch A Predator. The program, which stages sting operations throughout the U.S., found no shortage of material to use.

If time permitted, I could regale members with lurid details of the convictions and sentences since Internet luring was declared a crime in Canada. However, in the interests of time, I will simply state that in Canada sentences for a first time offender typically range from six months to two years in prison. Believe it or not, in some cases these sentences are served in the community and in the comfort of the offender's home.

It is only a matter of time before the courts will be called upon to sentence offenders who have a history of prior sexual offences. What should be of great concern to all of us is the likelihood that the relatively short maximum sentence of five years will handcuff the court's ability to sentence these reoffenders.

Let me offer a tragic yet current example. The case of Peter Whitmore, although not a case of luring, mesmerized the nation for several months last year as police hunted down the sexual predator who had abducted two young boys. Mercifully, Mr. Whitmore was caught, but only after allegedly committing numerous sexual offences against these boys. Here is the sad part: Mr. Whitmore had a long history of prior sexual offences against children and had repeatedly been sentenced to prison terms of up to five years. Even then a five year sentence did not deter this predator from seeking out young children again and he spent further time in jail for violating his parole by contacting children.

Let us assume that Mr. Whitmore is again released from prison. If he then commits the offence of luring a child to satisfy his sexual urges, the maximum sentence he could receive is, you guessed it, five years in prison, a term which has previously failed to deter him from molesting children.

What judges need is the ability to properly sentence the Peter Whitmores of this world, where Internet luring is only a culmination of a long history of sexual crimes against children and others. I would also suggest that increasing the maximum sentence for luring to 10 years more appropriately reflects the seriousness of this offence.

If we believe that violent offences against children deserve strong denunciation, that denunciation must be reflected in the sentences we impose. Yet a comparison to a number of other Criminal Code offences indicates that the current five year maximum for luring does not represent the degree of denunciation that Canadians would expect or demand.

Mr. Speaker, did you know that parental abduction of a child, distribution of child pornography and sexual touching all carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, not five? More shockingly, did you know that fraud over $5,000 and yes, even simple theft of cattle carries a sentence which is twice the length of the five year sentence for luring a child? Clearly, when viewed in the context of these comparative offences, the luring of our children for sexual purposes cries out for at least similar, if not harsher, treatment. My heart tells me that the protection of our children is worth much, much more than the theft of cattle or simple fraud.

Perhaps even more important, increasing the maximum sentence for luring to 10 years in prison provides the courts with the tools to remove from society for longer periods of time the most serious sexual offenders, the Peter Whitmores, if you will. Common sense dictates that someone who repeatedly shows a clear intention to commit crimes against our children will not commit these crimes as long as he is behind bars.

An increased sentence for luring is justified by the unique nature of sexual offences against children. Many of those who prey on children are habitual offenders and often cannot or refuse to be treated. In other words, some of these offenders will remain a risk to their communities for the rest of their lives. A maximum sentence which delivers an enhanced opportunity for the courts to remove these habitual offenders from our communities clearly serves the interests of our children.

My private member's bill does not pretend to be a sweeping criminal justice reform. It simply addresses an apparent anomaly in the sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code. It is, however, a significant and tangible improvement in the sanctions available against those who repeatedly violate or attempt to violate the innocence of our precious children.

Let me summarize what Bill C-277 achieves. First, it condemns in the strongest terms the sexual exploitation of our children. Second, it brings the maximum sentence for luring into line with other sexual offences in the Criminal Code. Third, it elevates the seriousness of a luring offence to a level at least equal to crimes such as fraud and theft of cattle. Fourth, it improves the tools which judges have available to remove habitual offenders from society. Fifth, the bill provides the courts with a more flexible tool to sentence sexual offenders for whom luring is just a culmination of a long history of sex related crimes.

The message in Bill C-277 is very clear. Children are precious, vulnerable and worthy of the highest protection. They deserve nothing less. It is our job, as members of Parliament, to ensure that we do everything within our lawful power to provide our justice system with the legal tools to keep sexual predators away from our children. It is very simple.

As I have said before in the House, we have a job to do. Let us do it well.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 19th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In accordance with the order of reference of Wednesday, October 4, 2006, the committee has considered Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child) and has agreed on Monday, February 5 to report it with amendment.

February 5th, 2007 / noon
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Carole Morency Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Good morning.

As the committee has heard already, the Internet luring of children offence in section 172.1 was proclaimed into force on July 23, 2002. It was enacted as part of former Bill C-15A, which included Criminal Code reforms to better protect children from sexual exploitation, particularly vis-à-vis the use of new technologies such as the Internet.

This offence prohibits the use of a computer system, such as the Internet, to communicate with a young person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of one of the enumerated child sexual or abduction offences.

In the past, luring children over the Internet had become a new concern which was not properly addressed by the Criminal Code. Although the law completely forbade sexual physical contact as a result of Internet communication, the law did not really address action taken before that happened, action that facilitated this type of contact—Internet communication—to prevent a sexual offence or a kidnapping offence from being committed.

So, for example, this conduct could have been charged as an attempt to commit a child sexual offence, but as the law on attempts requires that the conduct amount to more than a mere preparation, it was difficult to have sufficient evidence to found a reasonable belief that an offence had been committed before the prohibited physical sexual contact actually occurred.

The Department of Justice, together with our provincial and territorial counterparts, continues to monitor the implementation of section 172.1. Given the fact that the offence only came into effect in mid-2002, there really is not much hard statistical data relating to its use. What I can bring to the committee's attention is a summary of some of the relevant reported case law.

Nonetheless, we are seeing reported cases and we can confirm that section 172.1 is being used successfully to address Internet luring of children. Charges are being laid and convictions secured, including as a result of guilty pleas and with sentences of imprisonment. So we believe that section 172.1 is having a positive impact in safeguarding children and youth against such online sexual exploitation. And, of course, recognizing that Canada continues to be one of the world's most plugged-in countries, we know that the importance of section 172.1 in this regard will not diminish.

For example, three years ago Statistics Canada reported that 71%, or almost three-quarters, of 15-year-olds use the Internet at least a few times each week, with 60% saying that they used it to communicate electronically through, for example, e-mail and chat rooms.

Parents who participated in the Canadian component of the 2004 World Internet Project survey that was reported in October 2005 estimated that youth in their households spent, on average, 8.9 hours per week on the Internet. Last summer, in August 2006, the United States National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released a report on the 2005 Youth Internet Safety Survey, a survey of 1,500 representative national samples of youth Internet users aged 10 to 17 years. It found that, of the youth who were targeted for sexual solicitations and approaches on the Internet, 70% were girls and 30% were boys, and 81% of those targeted were 14 years old or older. Overall, 90% of the sexual solicitation on the Internet happened to teenagers. They found none involving 10-year-olds, and 3% involved 11-year-olds.

So clearly efforts that serve to strengthen our responses to this type of sexual exploitation will better protect youth. Bill C-277's proposal to increase the maximum penalty on indictment for this offence will do this. As well, Bill C-22, which is now before this committee and which proposes to increase the age of consent to sexual activity from 14 to 16 years, will also better protect youth against Internet luring, specifically 14- and 15-year-olds, who the recent research shows are most at risk for this type of exploitation.

With that, I'll end my introductory remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have for me.

February 5th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

The motion is on the floor and is seconded by Mr. Murphy.

There is one problem with the amendment, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Murphy. There has been some discussion with the legal counsel. The problem, as it relates to the parent act under that rule, is that paragraph 172(2)(a), which this motion purports to address, is not covered or dealt with by Bill C-277, which deals only with paragraph 172.1(2)(a). So unfortunately it's an inadmissible amendment.

February 5th, 2007 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation on Bill C-277.

I believe this legislation is another significant step forward in protecting children across Canada against sexual predators. As the sponsor of this bill, I've been encouraged by the widespread support the bill has received. I am here today to explain the contents of the bill, why Canada needs this legislation, and why I believe this committee, subject to one proposed amendment, should approve this bill.

At second reading, I commended the previous Liberal government for introducing section 172.1 of the Criminal Code. That section makes it a crime for a person to communicate with a child by means of a computer for the purpose of facilitating a number of different criminal offences against that child. This was a significant step forward in protecting our children. It criminalized attempts to sexually abuse a child without actually requiring the child to first suffer harm or damage. Actions that demonstrate a clear intent to use the Internet to commit a sexual offence against a child can result in a conviction. This now allows the authorities to intervene before actual harm occurs to a child.

My private member's bill clearly transcends partisanship inasmuch as it represents a further effort to protect the most vulnerable in our society, namely our unsuspecting and innocent children. I especially want to thank those members of the opposition who have publicly lent their support to this bill.

Bill C-277 is quite simple in that it increases the maximum sentence for the offence of Internet luring from five to ten years in prison. Why increase the maximum sentence for this crime? Like most of you, I have children--four beautiful daughters. They, together with my wife, are the most important people in my life. Annette and I have done everything we can to protect them against those who would take away their innocence and cause them lifelong harm. Thankfully, they are all now moving into adulthood as caring and responsible human beings. But there was a time when they were much more vulnerable than they are now.

As technology continues to improve and change, the challenges that all parents of young children face become more and more daunting. It appears that the Internet is becoming the platform of choice for those who want to sexually abuse our children. Sexual predators are no longer hiding behind bushes in schoolyards and trolling for victims. They now lure children from the privacy of their homes and hide their identities and ages behind the anonymity of their computers.

In turn, Canadian children, as perhaps the most Internet-savvy children in the world, are exposed to predators as a result of inadequate supervision at home and as a result of the use of computers at unsupervised locations. As all of you know, the Internet is a powerful tool for both good and evil. Just as it has a vast potential to educate and improve our lives, the Internet is also a powerful force in perpetrating crime and harming people. Our laws have often not kept pace with these realities.

The current maximum sentence for Internet luring in Canada is five years in prison. In that respect, our country lags far behind others such as the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, which have all acted to impose criminal sanctions against Internet luring. In those jurisdictions the sentences are significantly higher. In the U.K., for example, federal legislation calls for a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. In Australia, it is 15 years. In the U.S., the federal government enacted legislation that calls for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison with a maximum of 30 years. Individual states have also introduced their own laws against Internet luring, ranging anywhere from one to 30 years. Commonly the maximum sentence in those states is in the 10-year range. Clearly, if the maximum sentence is a reflection of the importance we place on protecting our children, we need to do more.

Just how prevalent is child luring over the Internet? Statistics are relatively hard to come by in Canada due to the short period during which the luring law has been in place. I can tell you that a November 2000 Ipsos-Reid study that surveyed 10,000 Internet users, aged 12 to 24, showed that 20% said they had actually met in person people who they had become acquainted with over the Internet.

An American study that same year revealed that 19% of youths were sexually solicited over the Internet. Some of you may be aware of Cybertip, a program of Child Find Manitoba. It investigates incidents of Internet-related sexual offences. In its first two years of operation, it was inundated with over 1,200 reports that fell under the category of child sexual exploitation. Ten per cent, or some 120 cases of those, involved Internet luring.

NBC's To Catch A Predator program has illustrated just how immense this problem has become in the United States. The program, which stages sting operations throughout the U.S., found no shortage of material to use. I can certainly provide members of this committee with a website that details, unfortunately in very graphic detail, the particulars of over 130 of these cases that resulted in convictions. A Leger Marketing survey reports that 14% of children admit to chatting with strangers while on the Internet. I also want to refer members of this committee to a June 2001 report from the American Medical Association reporting that 19% of youth interviewed experienced at least one sexual solicitation over the Internet; of these, 3% said the sexual overture was aggressive in nature.

If time permitted, I could regale you with lurid details of the convictions and sentences for Internet luring since section 172.1 of the Criminal Code became the law in Canada. In the interest of time, I'll simply say that the sentences in Canada for a first-time offender typically range from six months to two years in prison, with some involving conditional sentences, usually for reasons of sex offender treatment programs. It's only a matter of time before the courts will be called upon to sentence repeat offenders under the luring law. What should be of great concern to all of us is the likelihood that the relatively short maximum sentence of five years will handcuff the court's ability to sentence reoffenders.

Let me offer a tragic yet current example. The case of Peter Whitmore, although not a case of luring, mesmerized the nation for several months last year as police hunted down this predator, who had abducted two young boys. Mercifully Mr. Whitmore was caught, but only after allegedly committing numerous sexual offences against those boys. I'd like to refer very briefly to his history.

If you go back in time to 1993, Mr. Whitmore was convicted of abduction and five sexual offences involving four young boys in Toronto. He got a year and four months in custody.

In 1995, he struck again. This time it was an eight-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy from outside of Toronto. He received five years in jail for those sexual offences.

Less than a month after his release from that imprisonment, Whitmore was found in a downtown Toronto motel with a 13-year-old boy. He was again sentenced to one year in jail for breaching a court order.

In 2002, a Toronto judge sentenced Whitmore to three more years in jail for probation violations, because he had fled British Columbia after being found in the company of a five-year-old boy.

In March 2004 a National Parole Board report notes that clinicians believe Whitmore has 100% probability of recidivism. Fast forward to July 22: Mr. Whitmore resurfaces in Winnipeg, where he is alleged to have offended against a 14-year-old boy. In July 30 of that year, RCMP issue an amber alert for a 10-year-old Saskatchewan boy who they believe has been abducted by Whitmore.

You know the story. The police were finally able to track down Mr. Whitmore. He's been charged with 15 sexual offences against children. That's the background in which we have to consider this offence and this bill.

My real fear is this, members of the committee. Here's a man who's already been sentenced repeatedly for terms of up to five years in prison for previous sexual offences. Even then, a five-year prison sentence did not deter this predator from seeking out young children again. He spent further time in jail for repeated parole violations.

Let's assume that Mr. Whitmore is again released from prison. If he then resorts to Internet luring to satisfy his urges and is charged under the luring law, the maximum sentence he could receive is the current maximum of, yes, five years, a term that has previously failed to deter him from molesting children.

For all of us, this issue is not only repeat offences under section 172.1, but also the ability to properly sentence the Peter Whitmores of this world, where luring is only a culmination of a long history of serious sexual crimes against children and others. I would also suggest to you that increasing the maximum sentence for luring to 10 years more aptly reflects the seriousness of this offence when compared to other arguably lesser offences under the Criminal Code. If we believe that violent offences against the most vulnerable in our society, especially our children, warrant stronger denunciation, that denunciation must be reflected in the sentences we impose. However, comparison of a number of other Criminal Code offences indicates that the five-year maximum sentence for luring does not represent the degree of denunciation that Canadians would expect.

A quick comparison of some offences that carry a maximum sentence of 10 or more years in prison is instructive.

I refer you to sections 151 and 152 of the Criminal Code, interference and touching for a sexual purpose. Exposing a child to bestiality also has a maximum sentence of 10 years or more. For incest, it's similar. For sexual assault, it's similar. Then we move to some offences that may not involve harm to a child or may not even involve harm to any person. Parental abduction, under section 283, means that a parent who takes a child from another parent--in other words, a spouse or former spouse--is subject to a maximum sentence of 10 years for abduction. Yet in that case one could argue that it may not be even harmful to the child for that abduction to have taken place--at least, not physically harmful to that child.

Simply distributing child pornography, under section 163, again carries a maximum term of 10 years. That again is a non-personal injury offence.

Now I'll refer you to two offences that put it into even more stark contrast. Fraud over $5,000 draws a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Did you know that the theft of cattle, under subsection 338(2), which is another non-personal injury offence, draws a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison? Clearly, when viewed in the context of these comparative offences, the luring of our children for sexual purposes cries out for at least similar, if not harsher, treatment. My heart tells me that the protection of our children is worth much more than the theft of cattle or simple fraud involving $5,000 or more.

I suggest to you a further argument in favour of increasing the maximum sentence for luring. By increasing the maximum sentence to 10 years, we provide the courts with the tools to remove from society for longer periods of time the most serious of habitual sexual offenders--the Peter Whitmores of our country, if you will. Common sense dictates that someone who repeatedly shows a clear intention to commit crimes against our children will not commit those crimes as long as he is incarcerated.

I would also suggest that an increased sentence for luring is justified by the unique nature of sexual offences against children. Many of those who prey on children are habitual offenders and often cannot or refuse to be treated. In other words, some of these offenders will remain a risk to their communities for the rest of their lives. A maximum sentence that delivers an enhanced opportunity for the courts to remove these habitual offenders from our communities clearly serves the interests of our children.

Members of the committee, I took great interest in the comments made by a number of opposition members during the debate at second reading. One criticism of the bill that I found to be most helpful was the implied suggestion from the Liberal member from Mississauga that the maximum sentence for the summary conviction offence of luring was too low and should be increased. In the spirit of those comments, I am prepared to submit for your consideration an amendment to the bill that does exactly that—namely, increases the maximum sentence upon summary conviction from six to 18 months in prison.

I believe that has been circulated, Mr. Chair.

February 5th, 2007 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

I'd like to call the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to order on Monday, February 5, 2007. With respect to the orders of the day, Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child), is a private member's bill. The member who is bringing it forward is Mr. Ed Fast.

Mr. Fast, you have the floor.

JusticePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2006 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to table in the House today a petition containing hundreds of signatures from my riding of Abbotsford and signatures from across the great province of British Columbia. They have been collected by justice advocate, Gertie Pool.

The petition informs Parliament that citizens wish to see repeat sexual offenders, like Peter Whitmore, kept away from our communities and children. It goes on to say that my private member's bill, Bill C-277, which would increase the maximum sentence for luring a child for sexual purposes over the Internet from 5 to 10 years in prison, would renew faith in the House if passed. Our children deserve no less.

JusticePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 20th, 2006 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to table in this House five petitions containing over 3,000 signatures from residents of Abbotsford and from residents across Canada. These signatures have been collected by justice advocate Gertie Pool.

The petitioners demand that our criminal laws be changed to ensure that repeat sexual offenders such as Peter Whitmore be kept away from our communities and children.

The petitioners support my private member's bill, Bill C-277, which doubles the maximum sentence for luring children over the Internet.

The petitioners demand that Parliament introduce longer maximum sentences for sexual offences and impose mandatory minimum sentences for the most severe sexual crimes.

The House resumed from September 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 29th, 2006 / 2:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to close the debate on what I believe is a significant step forward in protecting the rights of children across Canada in order to be safe from sexual predators.

As the sponsor of the bill, I am encouraged by the support the bill has received today. I had hoped that debate on this bill would transcend our partisan differences and for the most part it has. I especially want to thank those members of the opposition parties who have agreed to support the bill at least as far as the committee stage is concerned. For those who have expressed concerns, I respect those perspectives. I am hoping that all members of the House will at least agree to have the bill sent to committee for further review.

There may be some who will ask whether the bill is an overreaction to the problem of child luring. I would respond by looking at the experience in other countries such as Britain, Australia and yes, the United States. When we look at the maximum sentences for child luring in those jurisdictions, we see a range of 12 to 30 years in prison. In some cases the legislation provides for mandatory minimum sentences of five years.

By comparison, Bill C-277 represents a relatively modest increase in the maximum sentence from 5 to 10 years imprisonment. As my colleagues know, our government has also introduced legislation, Bill C-9, which will remove conditional sentences including house arrest where serious crimes are concerned. Increasing the maximum sentence for child luring for sexual purposes makes a clear statement that this is a serious crime and will ensure that sexual predators do not receive house arrest.

Members should also know that of the cases successfully prosecuted under the current child luring law, the large majority of the sentences are for terms ranging between 6 and 18 months, and most of those are conditional sentences to be served in the community.

My heart tells me that the protection of our children is worth much more than that. There is no doubt in my mind that offenders who are so depraved that they would take advantage of a vulnerable young child deserve tough sentences, not a sentence served in the comfort of their homes and communities.

I would invite members of the House to reflect on our fundamental role as members of Parliament. That role is to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians, and to use the utmost diligence in protecting and defending the interests of the most vulnerable in our society. Clearly, young, impressionable children are included in that group. They face growing threats from a rapidly changing world, a world which is becoming increasingly less friendly and safe. More importantly, those who prey on and exploit children are becoming increasingly bold in their attempts to gain access to our children.

In fact, as I stated earlier, many of these predators cannot be treated and will remain a constant threat to our communities for the rest of their lives. It is our job as members of the House to ensure that we do everything within our lawful power to provide our justice system with the legal tools to keep sex predators away from our children. It is very simple. We have a job to do. Let us do it well.

Parents also have a job to do. I encourage parents to listen to and understand their children, inform themselves about parental controls on their child's computer, keep their child's computer in a public place, stay involved and remain vigilant, educate themselves, and understand that the Internet is not as safe as they may have assumed.

Bill C-277 achieves three goals. First, it condemns in the strongest terms the sexual exploitation of our children. Second, it brings the maximum sentence for luring into line with other sexual offences. Third, it ensures that such offenders serve their sentences in jail, not in the comfort of their homes where they continue to have access to the Internet.

The message of the bill is very clear. If people choose to prey on our children, they will pay a significant price. I encourage the members of the House to put aside partisanship and do something significant for our children. At the very least, refer the bill to committee. Our children deserve nothing less.