Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

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, the Sex Offender Information Registration Act and the National Defence Act to enhance police investigation of crimes of a sexual nature and allow police services to use the national database proactively to prevent crimes of a sexual nature.

It also amends the Criminal Code and the International Transfer of Offenders Act to require sex offenders arriving in Canada to comply with the Sex Offender Information Registration Act.

It also amends the Criminal Code to provide that sex offenders who are subject to a mandatory requirement to comply with the Sex Offender Information Registration Act are also subject to a mandatory requirement to provide a sample for forensic DNA analysis.

It also amends the National Defence Act to reflect the amendments to the Criminal Code relating to the registration of sex offenders.

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.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak at the third reading of Bill S-2.

The significance of this bill cannot be overstated. It will help police prevent and investigate sex offences by having access to more complete information about convicted sex offenders. The result is quite simply that we can better protect our children, youth and adults.

Our government is committed to keeping Canadians safe and secure, and the legislation before us today is a crucial step forward in helping us meet that commitment. Most importantly, we want to give police the information and tools they need in order to do their jobs more effectively. This is an issue that affects all Canadians, young and old, in big cities or rural centres. We are all looking for a system that better protects communities against crimes of a sexual nature.

It is obvious from the support this legislation has received from hon. members that this is a priority for all of us. Together we are making a statement that the status quo is no longer acceptable and that the national sex offender registry must be strengthened.

We are saying that we are committed to both preventing sexual crimes and ensuring that police are aware of all convicted sex offenders in our communities so that they can carry out their investigative work more effectively.

Since coming into power in 2006, our government has made it a key priority to protect our citizens. We have acted decisively to crack down on crime and to ensure the safety and security of our neighbourhoods and communities.

In the 2010 Speech from the Throne, we told Canadians we would take action to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, and that is exactly what we will accomplish with Bill S-2.

The support we have seen for Bill S-2 from all hon. members shows that we all want the same thing: a Canada that is safer for everyone. That is certainly the message we have received from Canadians who have raised important questions about whether certain provisions of the justice system are as effective as they can be.

Canadians have also asked why we have a national sex offender registry that does not include all sex offenders and why we have a registry that, frankly, does not offer greater protection for the most vulnerable among us, our children.

Bill S-2 continues our work to address the concerns of Canadians by amending the Sex Offender Information Registration Act and the Criminal Code to provide Canadians with a national sex offender registry and a national DNA databank that will more effectively offer Canadians that kind of security. It responds to the concerns and recommendations from victims' groups and from our partners in the provinces and territories with whom we have consulted extensively on how we can make the registry truly effective.

The bill also responds to the concerns and recommendations of law enforcement agencies. It includes amendments put forward by both the government and the opposition that further address shortcomings in the existing legislation.

First and foremost, Bill S-2 will ensure that every person convicted of a sexual offence is added to the national sex offender registry automatically and that every person added to the registry will also be required to provide a DNA sample to the national DNA databank.

At present, convicted sex offenders are added to the registry only after an application is made by the Crown. This leaves open the possibility that offenders can challenge the application and, if successful, their names would not be included in the registry.

By making the registration of sex offenders automatically, Bill S-2 eliminates the chance that police may not have knowledge of all convicted sex offenders.

This legislation will also transform the national sex offender registry into a proactive tool for law enforcement agencies. As it exists now, police can access information in the registry only after a sexual crime has been committed in order to help them investigate who may be responsible. This is certainly useful in bringing offenders to justice, but it does little to prevent crime.

With these changes in place, for example, if police see suspicious activity at a community centre, a shopping mall or a school yard, they will be able to access the registry in order to prevent a potential crime of a sexual nature. They will be able to find out whether the person involved is a registered sex offender and obtain other information to assist them in their work.

Since this bill was first introduced in the House, several other amendments have been made to strengthen the legislation. For example, officials will be authorized to include new information in the database, such as a registered sex offender's method of operating in relation to the offence. This would provide police with valuable information regarding how a sex offender carried out his or her crime and any unique aspects in this regard, which could help them identify potential suspects in a case more quickly and effectively.

Another change is a provision regarding vehicle registration information. I am sure we have all heard or seen reports of threatened or actual sex offences where the police have little to go on beyond a vague description of the vehicle involved, such as a white car with four doors or a dark brown van.

We have also seen how a detailed description of the vehicle used by an offender can lead to a quick arrest. With this change in place, registered sex offenders will be required to report the make, model, year, body type and colour of any vehicle registered in their names and any other vehicles that they may use on a regular basis, such as a company car or truck.

Bill S-2 also includes a provision that would allow travel notifications to police in other jurisdictions when a registered sex offender is travelling through or to their area. This is particularly important with respect to high-risk sex offenders.

This also includes the notification of police in other countries, in keeping with our international responsibility with regard to sex tourism and the protection of our children abroad. In this regard, Bill S-2 also includes provisions to include in the national sex offender registry individuals who have been convicted of sex offences abroad and then returned to Canada. These measures requiring proper sharing of information are significant improvements over the existing legislation. They would further ensure the registry is truly useful in protecting public safety.

Bill S-2 is an important piece of legislation, and the time has come to pass this bill and show Canadians that we are serious about ensuring their safety. This bill would ensure all sex offenders who should be on the national sex offender registry are on the registry, and it would provide police with the information they need to protect our children and other valuable members of our society from sex offences before they occur.

Bill S-2 is a thorough and effective response to legitimate concerns and recommendations that have been expressed by police, by victims' rights groups, by our provincial and territorial partners and by Canadians. I ask all hon. members to unanimously support Bill S-2 and help our government fulfill this pledge to Canadians to protect our most vulnerable from harm.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I had an opportunity to work on this bill in committee, and I wonder if he could comment on something that is regrettable and I hope does not happen again. I am looking for him to confirm that we will not see this happen again.

We in committee had the opportunity to hear from a good number of witnesses who came from all over the place to give testimony, particularly with respect to Christopher's Law and how we need to better model that example from Ontario federally. The committee had agreed to make time on the calendar to do a statutory review of the sex offender registry, where this had come from.

Committee members were obviously greatly disappointed that, mere weeks before we were about to publish our report with our recommendations from all of that work, the government tabled its bill and pre-empted that. In fact, if the government had just waited a little to hear about the work the committee had done, many of the changes the member is referencing would not have had to be changes; they could have been incorporated initially into the bill.

I am wondering if I could have the assurance of the member on behalf of the government that, in the future, if committees are working on reports or undertaking statutory reviews, we could be given the opportunity to at least be listened to before the legislation is tabled.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all members of the committee for their hard work on this bill. As I indicated in my speech, there was good co-operation from all members. Some amendments were made to the bill, which I believe strengthen it a great deal, and that was through the co-operation and support of all members of the committee.

In fact, the committee waited far too long to get this bill moving; the government could not wait any longer and the legislation was introduced. However, it did not affect the efficiency of the committee in dealing with it. As I said in my speech, all committee members worked diligently to make sure that this piece of legislation moved forward in its current stage. It is a piece of legislation that all parties can point to as being a good piece of legislation coming out of this session.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

When we did the report on the sex offender registry, we heard testimony from two organizations that conduct DNA analysis. If my memory serves me correctly, because it was almost a year ago, one was from Quebec and the other from Ontario. What is more, one of them was run by the RCMP and the other by a Quebec organization.

When we were talking to them, they told us that they still did not have a new budget agreement with the federal government for analyzing DNA samples, that there were delays of up to one year and that, in their opinion, their budget needed to be increased in order to deal with the backlog.

Was an agreement ever reached between these two organizations and the government? Will the budgets be increased? If so, by how much will they be increased?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I previously indicated, there was good co-operation from all members of the committee working together on this.

My colleague is right that there was some discussion about outside bodies requesting additional financing. Those discussions were taking place amongst the two levels of jurisdiction. At this point I am not certain as to what the final outcome was, but we certainly have not heard anything since from the body of which my colleague spoke.

I do not know whether or not those agreements are in place. I am certain that those discussions, if they have not been completed, will be finalized somewhere in the not too distant future.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, given that my colleague humbly said that he was not aware of the outcome of this issue, I would appreciate it if he looked into the matter to satisfy my curiosity and to bring everyone up to speed. I would like this information to be presented in the House or in committee so that we know whether an agreement was reached and whether the budgets were increased.

Since my colleague does not know, could he get that information to us?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on this bill. It is a difficult emotional topic. There are probably not many Canadians who do not know somebody or have a family member who has in some way been touched by sexual violence. When it happens to a child, it is particularly heinous.

Obviously governments and parliaments should do everything in their power to go after those who commit the crimes, and in particular enable police, once a crime has happened, to apprehend the person quickly and to remove the young person from danger before something worse happens. When an incident of this nature occurs, the first hours are critical in finding out where the child is. Having an effective sex offender registry that allows police in a timely way to target their search and go after those who might have committed the offence is critically important.

If we look at where the legislation comes from, there was a mandatory review, as I referenced earlier, which required the committee to take a look at the sex offender registry. In undertaking that work, it became very clear to all of us that the federal registry was woefully inadequate, that other jurisdictions provincially had far outpaced us. It was certainly the case in Ontario where Christopher's law had been implemented with great success. It was a model all committee members looked at and on which we asked a lot of questions.

Witnesses came from different parts of Canada and we took the opportunity to hear from them. We were on the verge of releasing a series of recommendations, but that process was pre-empted by the bill being presented. Much to our disappointment, because the bill had been hastily crafted and prematurely presented, a number of the recommendations that we made were missing and had to be injected into the bill.

I understand that all of us want to move legislation through expeditiously, but so too it is important to have a proper study of legislation to make sure that when we pass something, we get it right. If we respond instantly to a headline and try to craft legislation on the back of a napkin and toss it out the door at a thousand miles an hour, mistakes happen, gaps are left and things get undone.

I think of the pardon legislation, as an example. I remember some four years ago the then public safety minister said in response to a horrible story, “We have got the problem fixed. Don't worry, it is all done”. It was only a couple of days after the event. There was no opportunity to study it at committee, to ask questions, to delve into the issue, and of course four years later the government came forward and said that there were problems with the pardon system, that we have to review it, renew it and change it.

There is an unfortunate tendency to ram things through. That process of ramming things through means that mistakes get made and things get left out.

What was egregious about this particular example was that we were literally a week or two away from being able to offer those recommendations, if the government had had the courtesy to wait. It is one thing to be ignored, but it is another thing entirely to not even be heard before we are ignored.

On the whole, this represents good legislation with the changes that have been made and is something which is supportable. However, I do want to comment, because as much as the parliamentary secretary talks about the co-operation in committee, I have to say I was deeply concerned that the member for Saint Boniface and a few other members, on television, when I was debating on panels both inside and outside this place, attacked me for not supporting the sex offender registry.

Where does this stem from? It stems from the fact that I asked questions, if anyone can believe such an outrageous thing. I asked questions about the fact that the list of offences was much longer than what was present in Ontario under Christopher's law. As an example, voyeurism was on the list. There was concern expressed about whether or not voyeurism should be on the list of offences that would put somebody on the sex offender registry. This concern came not only from me, but from police officers who were concerned that if the list was too broad, they would be visiting far too many houses when an incident happened. What they wanted was to have that scoped to make sure the houses they were visiting and the information they had would be directly addressed to people who commit the most serious offences.

The other example was of an indiscretion at an office party. As there was something in this bill about sexual assault, we wanted to make sure that if there was an indiscretion, and certainly somebody should not make unwanted sexual advances at something like an office party, that the individual would not end up on the sex offender registry. When a child goes missing, that would probably not be the first door to knock on to ask questions when there are other people on the list.

In raising these concerns, somehow that morphed both in the House and in television panels into some people saying that I did not support the sex offender registry. That is incredibly dishonest. Unfortunately, we see it in this House with enormous regularity. The Conservatives seem particularly obsessed with me and my riding. They rise on S.O. 31 statements saying that I love criminals and that I am against support for victims, but nothing could be further from the truth.

What the Conservatives are really saying is that I ask questions and that I do not blindly accept whatever is put in front of me. When anybody criticizes the Conservatives or asks questions, their first instinct is to attack, to try to bite off the person's head, as opposed to maybe listening and considering the fact that the points being raised are worthy of debate and discussion. In passing legislation, debate is an important part of the process that forms good legislation.

As much as I support this legislation as it is currently crafted, I have to express concern more broadly as to where the government is going with respect to its agenda. There are a lot of bills currently before the House. I think this is a good one, but there are many others that are not and it is leading us in a direction that is disturbing.

I came across an article in the New York Times that talks about the state of California's prison system. It bears reading excerpts from the article because it speaks to the model the government is chasing. While the rest of the world is running away, the government is chasing after what is happening in California.

The title of the article is “The Crime of Punishment”:

In 2005, when a federal court took a snapshot of California’s prisons, one inmate was dying each week because the state failed to provide adequate health care. Adequate does not mean state-of-the-art, or even tolerable. It means care meeting “the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities,” in the Supreme Court’s words, so inmates do not die from rampant staph infections or commit suicide at nearly twice the national average.

These and other horrors have been documented in California’s prisons for two decades, and last week they were before the Supreme Court in Schwarzenegger v. Plata. It is the most important case in years about prison conditions. The justices should uphold the lower court’s remedy for addressing the horrors.

Four years ago, when the number of inmates in California reached more than 160,000, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a “state of emergency.” The state’s prisons, he said, are places “of extreme peril.”

Last year, under a federal law focusing on prison conditions, the lower court found that overcrowding was the “primary cause” of gruesome inadequacies in medical and mental health care. The court concluded that the only relief under the law “capable of remedying these constitutional deficiencies” is a “prison release order.”

Today, there are almost twice as many inmates in California’s 33 prisons as they were designed for. The court ordered the state to reduce that population by around 30 percent. While still leaving it overcrowded, that would free up space, staff and other vital resources for long overdue medical and mental health clinics.

I would add rehabilitation also. Further on, the article continues:

Among experts, as a forthcoming issue of the journal Criminology & Public Policy relates, there is a growing belief that less prison and more and better policing will reduce crime. There is almost unanimous condemnation of California-style mass incarceration, which has led to no reduction in serious crime and has turned many inmates into habitual criminals.

America’s prison system is now studied largely because of its failure—the result of an expensive approach to criminal justice shaped by fear-driven ideology. California’s prisons embody this overwhelming failure.

The Americans themselves are acknowledging that the path taken by California is a disaster and has led not only to less safe communities but to budgets being completely evaporated. Prisons are sucking like a vacuum from health care, education and infrastructure as they go these mega-prison complexes.

The problems are then compounded in terms of mental health. As we heard from the correctional investigator, the state of mental health in our prisons is deteriorating.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

My remarks are directly relevant to this, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the member's interest in what I am saying. I appreciate that he is listening. If he had been listening at the beginning of my remarks, he would know that I spent a good deal of time talking about the sex offender registry.

When we are dealing with legislation, it is incredibly important to ensure there is a balance in what we are approaching and how we are going to deal with it. We are dealing with legislation that needs to be passed but we have to consider the ramifications on the other legislation that is on the table.

There is no doubt this bill will have ramifications on people being incarcerated, and it should. It is going to put a strain on our prison system. We have to make sure there is space in those facilities to put the people who belong there. Sex offenders certainly do belong in our prison system.

Chiefs of police across the country have told us that our prisons are replete with the mentally ill. Oftentimes our prisons have no room for dangerous offenders because of the fact that prisons are being used as repositories for the mentally ill. When police encounter somebody who is mentally ill, they have nowhere to send that individual. They have to wait for the person to commit a crime so the person can be put into a prison. Instead of receiving health care and getting better, individuals are put into solitary confinement because there are no resources to deal with them. Being in solitary confinement makes them worse. They are released back onto the streets where, in a worsened condition, they commit a more serious crime.

When considering a bill like this one, we have to ask who populates our prisons and how much space we can make for them.

The government recently announced that it is going to move forward with double-bunking. What impact will that have on conditions in our prison system? In California, prisons are overcrowded and inmates are stacked one on top of the other. We can say we do not care what happens to inmates because they committed a crime, but the problem is that over 90% of them will come out. They are being stuck in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions where not only their mental health and their exposure to poor behaviour is at issue, but their rate of contracting an infectious disease increases. When over 90% of them come out, this becomes a major public safety problem and a major public health problem.

The government's approach on this issue is very germane to any discussion with respect to who we are incarcerating and who populates our jails.

What is the actual evidence? The government's prison agenda has been repudiated. California's system has been a disaster. The rest of the world is condemning that prison system yet the Conservative government is chasing after it at 100 miles an hour. What is the solution?

If we want to ensure there is room in our prisons for the people who belong there, and if we want to ensure that we have safe communities, then surely we should not be cutting back on crime prevention. Over 70% has been cut from the crime prevention budget. Over 41% has been cut from the victims of crime initiative. This initiative helps break the cycle of victimization.

As we know, unfortunately victims often become offenders, and this relates directly to sex offences. Young people who were traumatized or faced sexual violence in their past deal with that through aggression, through confrontation with our legal system. We hear from police that this is often the cause of some very violent and disturbing behaviour. Programs and services to help deal with victims were not in place.

If we want to deal with sex offences, it is not enough just to have a sex offender registry. We also need to invest in community infrastructure to make sure that victims who go through those experiences are given the support they need to ensure they do not walk down that dark path.

When I talk with the boys and girls clubs, church groups, or others who are involved in providing these kinds of services, I hear that their funding is being cut all over the place. They have to twist themselves into pretzels in order to get access to federal funding. This is egregiously wrong. What is so bad about it is that it is enlarging the pool of crimes that are being committed.

The government is building all of these new prisons while it is cutting from the very things that stop crimes from happening in the first place. This means it is feeding the beast. It is compounding the problem on top of itself.

Then the more the prison population grows, the less money there is for rehabilitation, the less money there is to make sure people get better. We then have to do things like cut the prison farm program, one of the most successful programs, which we had for over 100 years and which was studied by the world for how effective it was at bringing about rehabilitation. Yet it was cut because the Conservatives said they do not have the money. This is the track we are on, where it compounds and takes us to an ever-increasing population that makes us more and more unhealthy.

Aside from investing in those things, we have to listen to local communities. Instead of sending diktats from Ottawa about how these community groups have to twist themselves to fit into some bizarre federal scheme, we should be asking them through their community safety councils or other such agencies to tell us what their needs are, what can they do to build infrastructure on the ground to break cycles of victimization, to help people who have been victims, to make sure that when a crime happens it does not perpetuate itself, that it breaks cycles of addiction, and we know that in our prison system more than 80% of inmates are facing addiction issues. We should be asking them to deal with mental health concerns, to have them from the bottom up tell us what their communities need, and then Ottawa should be a partner and say here is how we are going to work with them.

As we are looking at ways in which we can go after people who are committing crimes, sexual offences, as I mentioned before particularly against children, the most egregious, is one of the reasons why I am disturbed that we still have not dealt with lawful access provisions that have been in the House for over five years now. In the lobby a few minutes ago I spoke about how this pertains to terrorism. But police have been telling us it also affects child exploitation. Police need the technology, the ability and the legislative authority to be able to chase after these predators and these people who would commit crimes online, to be able to get access to Internet service provider records, to be able to open up BlackBerrys that have encoded information, yet that legislation has been sitting on the table for five years with no movement, no action.

When the government's promise in 2005-06 to put 2,500 more police officers on the streets was not realized, members of the Canadian Police Association called it a betrayal. They said it would impede their ability to enhance public safety and go after some of these individuals. Yet the government is quick to pound its chest and talk about what a great job it has been doing on crime.

If I have an overall narrative here it is that while I support the bill and I believe the bill needs to be done, the government's approach to crime is heading in a very dangerous direction in the way in which it attacks people who raise legitimate concerns and raise alternative suggestions about how we should pursue these ideas. It does so in such a personal, visceral way. It tries to portray that somehow people who disagree with it do not share the same interest in overall public safety. It is dishonest and unbecoming to the House.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech although I am not sure how much of it has to do with Bill S-2, which is the bill before the House.

He commented that he is opposed to throwing people into what he described as overcrowded prisons. If he truly believes that, I am curious as to why he constantly speaks against the government's initiative to build and expand the prison system. Would he prefer that the prisons remain overcrowded, or is his suggestion that we let criminals out and put them back on the streets?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do find it passing strange that the member rises on a point of order to say that I should not be talking about prison overcrowding and then his question to me is about prison overcrowding. But nonetheless, I welcome the question because here is the problem.

The government's plan is overcrowding plus mega-prisons. It is the whole enchilada and it is exactly what California did. It is the exact model. The incarceration rates were ramped up. There was a time when the rate of incarceration in the United States was only two times that of Canada. That was in 1980. The United States ratcheted that up by about 700%, so their rate of incarceration is about eight to one what Canada's is. Over that same period of time the rate of serious crime though was reduced in both jurisdictions at about the same rate. Canada was a little better. So this strategy was tried.

California built a whole bunch of new prisons. It was not that it stacked prisoners on top of each other. This ideological fear-based policy, which is what this is, it is not based on an ounce of evidence, this policy that is being undertaken that was tried in California means that all of these prisons are built and that is still not enough because it keeps ratcheting up higher. Even with all those new prisons now there is no money for roads, there are potholes everywhere, so now they have to be stacked on top of each other in the newly built facilities. That is where we are headed and that is what is wrong.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. colleague's remarks are lucid and very helpful to the debate.

I do want to ask him a question about the automatic registration feature of the bill. The member talked, quite correctly, about how important it is for police in that critical one or two hours after a child abduction may have occurred to have immediate access to a databank that is accurate and helpful to them so that they can immediately start targeting sex offenders who may be present in the area.

We heard testimony before the committee that with automatic registration we will end up adding a whole slew of people to that database who probably should not be in that database, with the result that the police will have clogged data. In that critical one or two hours, the police will be searching and visiting people who may not be the appropriate targets of that investigation at the expense of visiting those sex offenders in the area who may be actual legitimate targets.

I am just wondering what his and his party's position is on automatic registration in this bill, particularly when it does not just copy the Ontario model, it actually expands the number of offences in the Criminal Code that are covered by automatic registration, including things like sexual assault, which the member has already pointed out is a hybrid offence and can include certain convictions that are not of the quality and character that would really, truly necessitate inclusion in the sex offender registry.

I would be interested in hearing the hon. member's remarks on that.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member not only for his question but for the opportunity to work with him on this bill. We have had a very constructive working relationship on this bill and others.

I think the member should get ready for a Standing Order 31 statement attacking him now for loving criminals or for being a criminal hugger, because he would dare ask a question.

The reality, of course, is it is a good question and it is one that needs to be asked and carefully considered. It is one that was raised by the police.

In principle, as we saw its application in Ontario, I certainly favour, as does our party, automatic registration. I think it has worked well in Ontario, and it has been effective.

The member raises a concern that I shared through the proceedings about automatically including some people who might be on the periphery and who were not intended to have been caught by that net, and winding up in a situation where we have a list that is simply too large to be useful.

The examples the member gave, and that I gave in my speech, that we had concerns about are worth mentioning and considering.

The other point that I am concerned about somewhat is the notion of moving discretion away from the judge to the police officer. If there is a commission of voyeurism, as an example, a police officer may be tempted to not pursue charges because they do not feel that the person belongs in the sex offender registry. However, previously they would have gone to court and gotten a lesser charge, and would have been able to establish a history if the person were to then progress from there.

I think that through the course of testimony and through the course of discussion, those concerns were largely resolved in my mind and in the mind of the party. The feeling is that the scoping is significant enough and the wording is clear enough so that that net shall not be that wide.

With respect to those concerns, I have them and have been posing questions about them, however they are not significant enough to warrant not supporting this bill.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member on his speech. I am letting him know from the outset that my question is indirectly related to the bill. I hope that he will not say, as the Conservatives did, that it is not relevant.

I think that the hon. member would agree that any bill must first ensure that there is a balance between human rights and public safety. I believe that he and his party are concerned about human rights, which are part of their human and political interests.

The member claims to be a human rights advocate and says that he strives to ensure that Conservative bills are not demagogic and that they find a balance between these two elements. After five sessions on the G20 and the G8, why has his party not requested an independent public inquiry on this issue to date? I do not understand. The relationship between that and Bill S-2 is the human rights aspect.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, these are two very different issues, but I can still answer the question.

First, with respect to crimes committed against young people, especially sex crimes, we all need to work together and leave politics aside. At the same time, it is very important for us to ask real questions about the bill to ensure that it is good and that it will work.

I am worried about the Conservatives because every time someone asks questions, the Conservatives attack them very personally, saying that this person supports criminals and does not believe what the victims are going through. That is not true.

As for the G20, in my opinion, there is no doubt that we need to force the Conservatives to answer a lot of questions. If we need a public inquiry and if we need to find another way to ask questions and get answers, then I absolutely support that. After our studies of this issue in committee, a number of very serious questions went unanswered.

If someone wants to demonstrate and share his ideas, and the government restricts his freedom and his ability to ask questions, that is very serious. We need to be able to get answers.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that, as you are no doubt aware, the Bloc Québécois will support Bill S-2 on the sex offender registry.

This bill is an exact copy of Bill C-34, as amended by the committee during the last Parliament. We supported Bill C-34 in principle. We heard from witnesses who reinforced our position and we put forward amendments that were agreed to. We also proposed amendments to Bill S-2, but unfortunately, they were defeated because the Liberals supported the Conservatives. We proposed amendments relating to the automatic registration feature that my colleague discussed earlier.

This is another example of how the Bloc Québécois works bill by bill in an effort to be constructive without sinking to the level of grandstanding that we have come to expect from this government.

We believe that we must make tools available to the police that, on the one hand, are effective at preventing and fighting crime and, on the other hand, do not constitute an unjustified and disproportionate breach of fundamental human rights.

As all of my colleagues have said, we all worked well together on this. Bill S-2 seeks to make the sex offender registry more effective and more useful to the police. This is a critical tool for preventing sex crimes and supporting sex crime investigations.

This bill helps strengthen existing legislation on sex offender information registration, which came into force on December 15, 2004. It would enable authorities to include more individuals convicted of sex crimes on the registry and would record more information about those individuals, including DNA.

This bill would also strengthen obligations that apply to individuals listed on the registry, such as those related to moving or being away from their residences for an extended period of time.

The bill adds new violations requiring registration and, in clause 5, makes some changes in the procedure by which courts will order inclusion in the registry.

In the case of so-called “hands-on” sexual offences, which are generally quite serious, the current regime allows the Crown to decide whether or not to ask the judge to have the person included in the registry. Under the new regime, which will be in place shortly with the passing of this bill, the attorney will no longer have to make the request; it will be a question for the courts to decide upon. It must announce its decision when the sentence is handed down and automatically order the person to comply with the requirements of the law; this is automatic inclusion.

In addition, this new clause abolishes the exemption, or exception, that currently applies when an offender establishes that their inclusion in the registry and the resulting impact on them, including on their privacy or liberty:

...would be grossly disproportionate to the public interest in protecting society...

Consequently, a hands-on sexual offence would result in automatic inclusion in the registry.

One thing is certain: at some point we will have to evaluate how the registry fits into all of this because there will be a lot of names in it. Witnesses told us that when there are a lot of names in the registry, it is less effective.

In terms of DNA samples—and this is somewhat related to the question I asked my Conservative colleague earlier—representatives from the two laboratories that do these tests clearly told us, when we met with them, that investigations are underfunded and that there are delays because it takes time for them to analyze the samples. These delays mean that these crimes sometimes go unsolved.

If it is urgent, they are efficient. But some samples may sit for a year before being analyzed because there are not enough resources.

Not only were they waiting for an agreement with the federal government, but they were also hoping to get more funding. It is all well and good to have legislation in place, but we need to have the means to enforce it. Will any money be invested in this bill? It is important to note that more and more people will be added to this registry, so there will also be more and more requests for DNA analyses.

Coming back to my point, when a direct sexual offence is committed, registration is automatic; however, for other designated crimes, it is up to the crown prosecutor to determine whether or not to apply to the court.

Clause 40 is another interesting point in the bill, because it makes a major change to how the registry can be used. This is very important, because it has to do with the notion of prevention. Under current legislation, the registry can only be used when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a sexual offence has been committed. Bill S-2 allows police to consult the registry for prevention purposes.

Consider the example of Cédrika Provencher, a tragic incident that took place not too far from us. What is interesting about this case is that the registry could have been consulted, which would have allowed for more effective prevention. However, according to the information we heard, some sex offenders had already been identified in that area, which the police were able to verify. As we know, when a child is kidnapped, it is important to find him or her within the first 24 hours. After 48 hours, the situation becomes even more worrisome, and as time passes, the chances of finding the child diminish considerably.

Clearly, this greater openness to prevention will have to be examined more closely to ensure that it is not used inappropriately. I trust the professionalism of police officers, but the fact remains that sooner or later we must have a closer look at this provision. Personally, I think it is a measure that could save lives.

The bill also proposes another worthwhile amendment. If this bill passes, there will be a correlation among offences that lead to inclusion in the sex offender registry and the sex offender's obligation, as I was saying earlier, to provide a DNA sample to the national DNA data bank. The bill will amend section 487.04 of the Criminal Code, which already requires a judge to order that such a sample be taken when a primary designated offence, a very serious offence, has been committed.

If the bill is so good, then why has it not passed yet? There are a number of answers to that question: first, this government nearly always introduces what at first is an absurd bill, ensuring that everyone is against it and wants to amend it; second, this government has gotten in the habit of putting on a show in the name of public safety; third, this government claims that these things are important and then turns around and prorogues the House, allowing all the bills to die on the order paper.

The opposition is not responsible for this delay. I have seen my colleagues work hard on getting this bill passed and on making worthwhile amendments to make the bill even better. I feel that the blame lies with the government, which unfortunately does not put its money where its mouth is. This is not the first time we have seen the Conservatives do this. I would not be bringing this up if I did not have a number of other examples.

Take for example former bills C-46 and C-47, which have been renamed and brought back to the House. The police have been calling for such legislation for over 10 years to help them conduct investigations, especially when it comes to the producers and consumers of child pornography. One of these bills ended up in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the other, in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Then, all of a sudden, they disappeared. And then the House was prorogued. I have had to ask why a million times in the House.

Not too long ago, I do not have the exact dates, they reappeared with new names. And we are still not working on them. The government should bring them forward because I would like to start working on them.

This government likes putting on a show in the name of public safety and too often shirks its fiduciary responsibilities with respect to our collective security. We saw this recently with its irresponsible attitude towards the firearms registry, which, despite everything the Conservatives are doing, works relatively well, in spite of their amnesties and their many attempts to secretly abolish it through private members' bills.

I would like to come back to the fact that police forces want another tool to protect our children and to catch producers and consumers of child pornography.

Since 1999, police forces across Canada have been calling for legislation that, within a certain framework—this is not a free-for-all—would require Internet service providers to disclose IP addresses, which identify their clients computers, without being forced to ask for authorization in court, since these authorizations would be given later.

An IP address is like 411, a telephone book where you can find a person's name, address and telephone number. It is the same for a computer. This makes it possible to take action and save lives in an urgent situation.

I am not the only one saying this. On April 22, when he testified before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime, Mr. Sullivan, who was appointed by this government, said:

...if I were the Prime Minister today the Internet bill would be my absolute priority; it would be number one in the justice reform areas.

Mr. Sullivan gave a good picture of the tragedy the absence of such legislation causes. He said:

The longer we delay these initiatives to give law enforcement the tools, the more kids are going to be abused. I think that makes everybody angry.

That is true. It makes no sense that we do not currently have any regulations like these for the Internet. I can give some examples. In less than 10 years, we have seen a huge increase in the amount of child pornography on the Internet. We have gone from thousands of images to millions of images and videos. Every single image and every single video shows children being abused. I spoke to investigators from the child sexual exploitation unit who told me that the youngest sexual abuse victim they had seen was a two-week-old baby. That is unbelievable.

Imagine my indignation when, rather than passing a bill that would actually make it possible to save lives by giving the police important tools, the members of the House prefer to talk about other things. I would ask my fellow members to excuse me for being emotional but I find this so mind-boggling that I cannot even believe it. I think that a way must be found to let the police do their work and to also protect our children.

It is important to understand, as the Bloc Québécois did during the consideration of the bill that was the original version of Bill S-2, that the government must question and change its behaviour for everyone's benefit. It must do so to protect public safety and preserve Canada's credibility in the eyes of the world, in the eyes of the international community.

It is rather paradoxical that I, a sovereignist, am saying this. I strongly believe that Quebec and Canada are sister countries. So, when things go wrong in Canada, they cannot help but go wrong for us as well.

Unfortunately, we are still in Canada. Sometimes extraordinary laws are passed that help us to grow; however, there are other laws that diminish us completely both as individuals and as a society.

It is important for the government to understand that human rights are more than mere words. Human rights are fundamental. This institution is based on human rights in general and on the rights of children. The government must show its good faith by ordering a public inquiry on the G20 in Toronto. I asked the Minister of Public Safety and the government several questions and, as I understand it, they have shut the door on this issue.

I have sat on five committees. People came from everywhere to testify. There were organizations as well as individuals who had been arrested and who are no longer facing charges. With what we are hearing, if I were the public safety minister, I would call a public inquiry for the sake of the credibility of Canada and its police. Right now, it is all just suspicion and allegations. People are not crazy. They go on the Internet and see things. Articles are published and we hear statements in committee. It is a disgrace. A public inquiry needs to be called to clean all of this up. If it finds nothing, so be it. At least everyone will be reassured and people will say that some incredible work was done. But that is not what is currently happening; there is nothing but suspicion.

More than 1,000 people were unfairly arrested at the G20, and a tiny minority were incarcerated after charges were laid. It was the largest number of arrests made at a single event in Canada. It brings back bad memories, such as the October crisis in 1970. We have to wonder. I hear my colleagues opposite, who are at a loss. It might help them understand if they realize that the link is human rights. Based on facts that are gradually coming to light, many observers feel it is increasingly probable that respect for human rights was not a concern for the infamous G8 and G20 integrated security unit, which was headed by the RCMP. Everyone is responsible, but no one is responsible. It is as though—