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.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:05 p.m.
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Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

moved that Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:05 p.m.
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Oxford Ontario


Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to join in the debate on Bill S-2 put forward by the Minister of Public Safety.

These proposals speak to the issues of public safety and the basic rights of individual Canadians, subjects of some familiarity in this place. As hon. members will know, this legislation was debated in this place on an earlier occasion as Bill C-34.

In the current session, I am sure that the progress of these proposals has been monitored carefully as they have made their way through debate in the other place and have enjoyed the scrutiny of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Having carefully reviewed the debate thus far, I detect no great controversy. Nonetheless, I see no reason to refrain from a spirited discussion regarding the merits of the proposals before us, and I expect no less from the hon. members opposite.

The government has identified areas in which an existing mechanism within our criminal justice system may be improved. Since their introduction, these proposals have been given additional weight through the vehicle of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which reviewed the existing legislation and made suggestions for its improvement.

Since these areas inviting positive change coincide with those highlighted over the years by various groups with an interest in criminal justice and by Canadians across the country, the government is quite rightly acting to update the legislation to reflect the constructive input of many knowledgeable citizens.

Over the last 20 years, there have been numerous legislative initiatives undertaken by a series of ministers responsible for facets of the criminal justice system, including some specifically directed at increasing penalties and delaying release for those convicted of serious crimes, particularly crimes of violence or sexual exploitation.

Historically among the more constructive of these parliamentary initiatives was the passage of a massive bill in 1992 that was brought forward by the Solicitor General of the day to replace the Parole Act and the Penitentiary Act with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I mention this as an example of legislation that achieved enlightened and enduring results based on research, consultation, and co-operation.

I might also add that on several occasions since, even this well-thought-out legislation underwent additional constructive change. Even the most carefully crafted legislation can benefit from experience and hindsight.

All Canadians are aware of examples of senseless crimes and the plight of the victims of these crimes. We are all aware, through our constituency offices, our correspondence, and media accounts that some of our citizens live in fear of crime and are of the belief that Parliament has not always risen to the challenge of protecting society.

Those of us who have followed criminal justice issues recall that for a time in the 1980s and early 1990s, the incidence of crime was of some concern to all of us. We saw both more and different sorts of crime being reported as victims of crimes involving family violence and sexual assault came to be less stigmatized and could come forward more readily to assist in the prosecution of their assailants.

The public has become more aware of our criminal justice system. It is obvious that an informed public is more likely to perceive flaws in the system with which it has more than a passing knowledge.

Those directly responsible for the safety of Canadian communities, from the police to prosecutors, judges, and ultimately our penal systems, both provincial and federal, are responding to the criticism and constructive suggestions that this increased awareness and oversight bring. As legislators, we should do no less.

There are many factors that affect an individual's exposure to crime. Geography, for example, plays a big part as an urban area witnesses more violent crime than does the countryside. While I grant that many Canadians do not have ready options as to where they live and who they may encounter in their daily lives, there are also many Canadians who might reasonably expect that their only encounters with crime would be on the six o'clock news.

It is when this reasonable expectation of safety is shattered by direct, involuntary involvement with senseless crime that public reaction surfaces in our mail and in the media.

We must respond to these concerns, and we must do so in an effective manner. I submit that the government is doing just that by putting forward Bill S-2 to respond to identified issues within the justice system.

The government and the parliamentary committee that reviewed the legislation governing the National Sex Offender Registry determined that the status quo was just not good enough. Needs arising from systemic faults within the system must be changed through policy and regulatory changes or, if necessary, be altered through the legislative process.

We must do everything in our power to reduce the number of these faults, but a partial or ineffective response can be worse than no response at all. The government has acted by producing a comprehensive body of reforms that have been studied by parliamentarians of both Houses. As mentioned, those issues that cannot be fully resolved under the current legislative boundaries will be dealt with effectively by the legislation before us today.

Just as no two victims require exactly the same response from the criminal justice system, the law must be fashioned to accommodate a range of offenders in any given category. Offenders who respond favourably to treatment, training and educational opportunities available in our system can rejoin the community as upright taxpayers. These individuals will be back among us eventually whatever we do to them. Every reasonable opportunity must be provided for those who no longer threaten us to return as expeditiously as safety dictates.

However, as part of the balance of the system, there are offences of such a serious and sexual nature that the possibility of their recurrence means that the offenders responsible must be restricted in their interactions with fellow citizens. The bill before us would limit the opportunities for a significant but necessary number of offenders.

Bill S-2 is a coherent package of reforms and is worthy of our serious consideration and swift passage. As I have mentioned, I see nothing controversial in these proposals. It is to be hoped, however, that through a frank discussion of the issues addressed, that the public may gain a greater knowledge about this portion of our criminal justice system.

I certainly favour keeping criminal justice issues in the public eye so Canadians may be better informed. It is my further hope they would also be reassured that the system is under scrutiny and that the government will make changes as necessary to ensure the system works.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
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John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, this bill is maybe No. 10 or No. 12 of a whole panoply of crime and justice bills, which the government loves to introduce to fix apparent problems in our justice system. We have quite readily supported those which have merit.

A while back, Bill C-9 was before the House and it contained a whole variety of issues related and unrelated to the budget. Why has the government not taken the opportunity to bundle all these justice bills into one crime and justice initiative? That way we could have a fulsome debate on each and every section rather than having a separate bill, a separate debate, a separate vote, a separate meeting at committee, witnesses at committee and the bill coming back to the House, et cetera, which stretches the whole process over literally months and sometimes with prorogation and things of that nature years of dealing with what are essentially small amendments to the Criminal Code.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to hear my colleague across the floor is in strong favour of many of the initiatives that the government brings forward.

Bill S-2 is one bill that did receive fulsome scrutiny at committee, as I have already indicated. We look forward to members opposite giving swift passage to Bill S-2 in its current form. We hope the bill will get through the House very quickly.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the amendments to the Sex Offender Registry. It is not an easy issue to talk about. Any time we talk about sex offences, it is one of those issues that really causes us great personal pain. Whether as parents or as members of the community, when we hear about these offences, we recognize they are some of the most despicable and horrible acts that can happen in our communities. I do not think any member of the House would say that we should not put at the disposal of police officers every tool they possibly can have to stop one of those crimes from happening, to stop there being a victim in the first place.

I am pleased to be generally very supportive of these changes, but I will do something to start that I do not typically do, and that is to quote myself. The reason I will do this will become clear in just a moment:

We the know of the Stephensons, who lost their son, and all the work they did in developing Christopher's law. It has led in Ontario to some very effective legislation, legislation that is used many hundreds of times a day and searched far more than the national registry. The success of that registry underscores the failure of the national registry. When we look at the statistics, and it is hard to believe, the Ontario registry is used four times more in a day than the national registry is used in a year.

I do not think there is any disagreement from anyone in the House that the sex offender registry is in need of modernization and amendment, and I welcome that debate.

The reason I quote myself is because that was almost exactly a year ago in June 2009 when the House had this debate. At that point in time, I made a speech on the necessity of moving forward with then Bill C-34. Everyone was participating in that debate agreed there was a need to move forward expeditiously.

However, we are here after prorogation, after the government killed that bill, to debate it yet again. What is so frustrating about the bill is the government not only short-circuited, through prorogation, the efforts of the House to deal with modernizing the National Sex Offender Registry, but in committee when we had undertaken a mandatory legislative review, as dictated by the government. We cleared our committee calendar. We pushed away all other business. We said that this was important, that we ought to sit down and work on this in a bipartisan way, We did exactly that.

We went over the National Sex Offender Registry. We had witnesses come from across the country and heard their testimony. As we were developing our report for the government, the government short-circuited all of it and tabled its bill without having even the courtesy of listening to the conclusions of the committee before ignoring them. Our committees are used to being ignored, but usually the government has the courtesy of letting the committee table the report before it ignores it. In this case, it did not even wait for that report. The Conservatives stated that the reason they needed to short-circuit our process was the legislation was so urgently needed, it was so desperate to push this forward and have it done, that they could not even wait to hear from the committee.

Then the summer passed, then prorogation and now we have the bill again. They would not wait for the opinion of committee, yet it was okay to prorogue and cancel the bill and now bring it back and talk about it with great urgency yet again, a year later. It shows of pattern behaviour. The government holds a reservoir of crime bills that it puts forward, retracts, puts forward, retracts, prorogues, kills, moves to the House and there is a curious timing with these bills. They seem to coincide with big Conservative problems.

Right now the government is embroiled in a rather large scandal, involving more than $1 billion that is being wasted on G8 and G20 summits. If Conservatives do not want to talk about fake lakes, gazebos, sidewalks to nowhere and some of this colossal waste they have undertaken, they switch to a crime bill and say that we have to deal with it, that it is urgent. They expect everyone is going to forget that they killed their own bill, are reintroducing it, short-circuited committee's process a year ago because they said that it was so urgent.

Canadians are a little smarter than that. They see the game and it is unfortunate because, as I said, these changes should have been made a year ago.

My colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood asked an excellent question to which he did not get an answer just a few moments ago. Why on earth, if all of these bills are so urgent, did the Conservatives not reintroduce them in an omnibus fashion? They did it with the budget, Bill C-9. They put everything but the kitchen sink into the budget bill. Yet when it comes to a crime bill, they have to reintroduce them one at a time, month over month and there is suddenly time to match whatever controversy they happen to be embroiled in at the time. It certainly makes one ask the question of why the Conservatives are introducing these bills when they are. It would seem that they are channel-changers more than genuine attempts to change legislation.

It is important the committee identified a number of items within the sex offender registry that needed change. The bill has now incorporated many of those amendments, now that the government has waited a year and actually listened to what the committee had to say.

One of the provisions in the bill, which is clearly very important, is automatic inclusion, the idea that people who commit offences of a sexual nature be automatically included in the sex offender registry. When we were hearing from those who were involved in creating Christopher's law in Ontario, they told us how important this provision was. We heard that there were roughly 12,000 people, as of last April, on the Ontario sex offender registry. On our entire national registry, there are only 19,000, to give an example. As I mentioned earlier in my speech, it was being used more times in a single day in Ontario than it was being used in a year. Clearly police did not find this registry reliable and automatic inclusion was an important provision with which to move forward.

The second element we heard again and again in the committee testimony was the importance of the ability for the police to use this tool proactively. As an example, if people call in suspicious activity around a school or somebody acting in an odd way that is causing them concern, if police officers are called, they are able to reference that person against the sex offender registry to find out if that person has a history of sexual-based offences. This is something police officers could not do before and it something they said they needed to do. The bill before us today can do that.

The next point is it allows accredited law enforcement agencies to share information. What we do not want to have is silos, where the RCMP is guarding its information, a municipal police force is guarding its information and there is no exchange of data. In that situation, with those silos, there is opportunity for information to be missed, for somebody who should have been recognized or noticed before a crime occurred not to be noticed. That inclusion is important.

Another provision that one would have thought was in there but was clearly a mistake and an oversight was the fact that if somebody committed an offence overseas in another country, he or she would not be included on the National Sex Offender Registry. Clearly this is a huge loophole. We are aware, unfortunately, that sex crimes are very prevalent in certain parts of the world, where people will actually travel to commit sex crimes. It is essential that this information be captured in our national database and that when police search records, it is not just domestic instances that are picked up, but also anything that happened internationally.

Something left out of the bill, which we recommended as a committee a year ago, was vehicle registration and ensuring the licence plate and vehicle were also registered. This was a big omission. Clearly when police officers are trying to ascertain whether there is something amiss, a vehicle with the plates registered to somebody who is a sex offender is very useful information.

None of these items unto themselves necessarily will stop every crime, but we are trying to empower our police officers to the best of our ability, to give them the tools they need to get the job done.

There were a couple of areas throughout the committee hearings that were concerns and to some extent remain concerns. Christopher's law in Ontario includes a very focused list of sex offences that have been very effective when used by police.

We heard from some witnesses that they were concerned with some of the additional lists of sex offences that were included in the sex offender registry, as they could weaken the registry, for example, if someone were charged with an office indiscretion. None of us want to see that sort of behaviour go on. Clearly it needs to be addressed and needs to have justice be served. However, does it make sense for an office indiscretion or for a mistake of a minor nature to land somebody on the sex offender registry? What the police said was this would weaken the sex offender registry by including too many people who were not an imminent threat to their community and therefore lengthening the amount of time police officers had to search through data and information to get at what was relevant.

For expressing and voicing the concern that police had about weakening this registry, one of the hon. members with the Conservative Party labelled me as trying to weaken the sex offender registry on a panel on national television by saying that I was against the sex offender registry. Again, this leads to yet another tool that the Conservatives often use with their crime bills.

If members ask any questions or raise legitimate concerns, concerns that police themselves are asking, the Conservatives try to make it sound as if we are somehow for sex offenders. Nothing, however, could be more patently absurd or intellectually dishonest.

Another issue for which there was concern had to do with judicial discretion, which is tied to the first point that I made. The committee and the Senate made recommendations, which failed, that said that only in the most extraordinary of circumstances, where judges recognized that inclusion in the sex offender registry would be a gross miscarriage of justice, should there be the opportunity for a judge to say no, that it does not make sense to put that person on the list. So, in the rarest of rare circumstances, would a judge be given a modicum of discretion to ensure that only the right people get on that registry.

Again we were attacked for making that point but it is an important one. Policemen say that they would be put into a situation where the discretion would be forced on them to decide whether putting somebody on the sex offender registry would serve society well or be fair to that individual. Suddenly, the discretion is being put on police to make the decision to not to charge that person. Now, somebody who has committed a more minor offence might be in a situation where he or she is not charged at all after having committed the offence. That remains a concern.

In a broader context, there are a couple of other concerns that raise the question of how we deal with victimization before it happens. I was deeply disturbed when I had the opportunity as public safety critic to tour this country and meet with groups, including the Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs and church organizations, that have seen their funding slashed for crime prevention, for the work they do on the front lines to try to stop crime before it happens. This is stuff that often does not get big headlines because, if it is successful, it never turns into a story.

If one has worked really hard at crime prevention, one can wake up one morning in a safer community. There are no headlines and nothing is trumpeted. There are just less victims and less crime. If we strip away all the rhetoric, should not one of the most major goals of government be to ensure communities are more safe, that crime never happens in the first place and that there are no victims to write about?

This slashing of that base infrastructure that communities have to stop crimes before they happen and to break the cycles of violence is deeply distressing because violence does not come out of the ether. It is not something that appears magically. More often than not, people who commit acts of violence have themselves been victims. They are caught in a cycle of victimization where they are playing out the same tragedy over and over again over successive generations.

What is desperately needed is intervention, to provide people with the opportunity to turn their life toward a bright path, particularly when they start to walk down that dark road. Again and again, when we talk to communities about the most important thing we can do to improve community safety, it is that, and yet, by more than half, spending on crime prevention in this country has been slashed and cut while prison spending has skyrocketed, an issue that, if I have time, I will come back to.

The second area of broader concern is the 41% cut to the victims of crime initiative, which is front line work with victims. The Conservatives often try to haul out the most tragic, terrible, awful examples that make all of our stomachs turn, but the reality is that victims cover a whole range. More often than not, very tragically, victims are aboriginal mothers stuck in a violent situation and needing help to get out of it. The victims of crime initiative worked with those victims to empower them and help them.

The victims ombudsman, the person the Conservatives put in place to be on the front lines of helping victims and recognizing their needs, said that the government's plan was unbalanced and would not work. When he decries the cuts to the victims of crime initiative, there is a pretty big gulf between the rhetoric of the government on victims and the reality. It is a gulf that is unfortunate because, more often than not, it seems that crime is a political tool. Instead of first asking how we can develop good policy, how we can work with stakeholders, how we can develop good legislation and then develop talking points and communiqués around that, the government seems to first want to create communiqués and talking points and then find legislation to make it match.

Another area of concern deals with lawful access. An hon. member of our caucus put forward a private member's bill several times through successive parliaments that would have given police the ability to go after crimes of the digital age. Police have been asking for many years to implement updated powers and abilities to track criminals online, to deal with new technologies and new ways in which criminals are communicating, planning and conducting crimes. When we are dealing with sex offences, particularly sex offences against children, this is an area that is particularly relevant.

In 2005, the then Liberal government introduced a bill to modernize our lawful access rules and to empower police to use the most modern investigative techniques to go after these types of crimes. Unfortunately, that legislation has languished. It was first killed by an election. It was then introduced by a Conservative government but it killed it by calling an election. It was introduced again and cancelled again by it calling an election. It was introduced again and then killed when the Conservatives prorogued. They have introduced it yet again and we still do not have it. It follows a pattern of a lot of talk but very little action on something that is very relevant to both sex offenders and to fighting crime in general, something that police have been demanding.

The last point I will make is with respect to broad concerns as they affect the sex offender registry, and they have to do with the DNA data bank. There is a provision in the bill that ensures that somebody who is on the sex offender registry is automatically included in the DNA data bank. That is something that is laudable and supportable. However, the problem is that the DNA data bank is desperately underfunded. We know that the RCMP is taking seven to eight months to turn around requests and that its office simply cannot handle what is given to it. This automatic inclusion of all of this additional data will mean that the backup will be even bigger.

Again, we have a government passing something but not following it up with the resources to really make it work. If we are to have automatic inclusion in the DNA data bank, it is rather meaningless if the police do not have the resources to actually process and use that information.

We want to see the bill move forward. We are deeply disappointed that we are dealing with it yet again. It should have been dealt with more than a year ago. However, we look forward to its speedy passage through this place and the opportunity in committee to ask some of these important questions.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, in his speech, my colleague referenced the cuts to organizations aimed at prevention but to other organizations that do great work to advocate and support victims or people in vulnerable situations when it comes to sexual offences.

I would like to hear from him on the government's approach. We are seeing a commitment to dealing with sexual offences but when it comes to dealing with the population that is most at risk of being victims of sexual offences, who, in our country in many cases are aboriginal women, the government has refused to renew funding to the Sisters in Spirit Campaign that is solely aimed at supporting aboriginal women who are vulnerable, who are on the margins of society and who often are the victims of these kinds of sexual offences that the government is supposedly trying to get tough on.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, the member makes an important point. While the government is always stressing enforcement, we are watching it cut from the things that stop people from being victims in the first place. For some of the most vulnerable groups, the ones who comprise the largest number of victims, their funding is being cut or they are forgotten by the government.

The G8 and G20 has a legacy fund that is building everything, as I mentioned earlier, from sidewalks to nowhere at over $1 million, a fake lighthouse and a $23 million media centre that will not be used, but for the first nations people of Ontario they are seeing nothing. Their G8 legacy is to be forgotten. For a government that talks so much about caring about victims, it is simply tragic that it is turning its back on first nations people and that its G8 legacy is to basically ignore them.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, the member gave what I consider to be a very accurate and historical context to the situation.

The bill has been before Parliament a number of times but on each occasion the government prorogues Parliament it suspends the bill. We now have the Prime Minister's Office saying that it will prorogue Parliament every year.

Could the member explain for the people who are watching this at home just what prorogation does to these bills once they are introduced, debated, sent to committee and then the House prorogues?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, it is deeply frustrating to be standing and speaking again to this bill, but it is not the only bill I have been doing this with. I have been giving many speeches many times over because, as the member rightly points out and there is confusion on, when the government prorogues it kills all the business that was on the table.

Traditionally, prorogation would be used after the government has exhausted its legislative agenda and wants to begin a new agenda. Therefore, we would not lose any legislation. It is time not to purge a political issue but to renew a legislative agenda.

However, the last prorogation was used as a tool to get out of a sticky spot. The government was in trouble over the issue of Afghan detainees, an issue that we are still debating in the House even this week as we try to get those documents. When it is used as a tool to get out of a political hot spot, it kills all the legislation that is on the table. Therefore, instead of renewing a legislative agenda, it short-circuits legislation, which means the House must do all that work all over again.

It is a colossal amount of waste, not only of the time of the House and of the witnesses who fly from all over the country to committee to be heard, but, quite frankly, it delays a lot of legislation that the country needs and should have been adopted some time ago.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to say how much I appreciated the member’s speech. He is very eloquent—he has quite a talent—and he bases all his arguments on facts that he has verified. He clearly demonstrated that in his speech.

I worked with him in the study of this bill a year ago when it was Bill C-34. Since that time, I have moved to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, but he will certainly remember some relevant facts he did not have time to mention, in particular regarding the DNA data bank that they want to use here once again. In fact, in the course of our study, we learned that the time for getting a DNA result is now more than a year, I believe. Certainly if there is a very urgent case, at a crime scene, they can be had faster, but the number of times the DNA data bank is used means that it takes an extremely long time. With this bill and the amendments being proposed, an even heavier load will be put on the DNA data bank.

We also learned, if I recall correctly, that training a DNA technician to be able to testify in court is something that takes years. Perhaps the member still recalls the exact time. I would not want to give inaccurate figures. I do not like to give figures when I have not verified them.

However, it strikes me again how the Conservatives have this habit of always making a show of how they are really doing something to tackle crime. Are they not going to extremes that will mean that at some point we are going to be unable to administer these laws, and so they will not be very useful to victims?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, the member was on the committee and was very constructive in asking questions and trying to get at evidence and basing our decisions on evidence, which is where we should start in any process.

He is also right to call the fact that when the government talks about the use of the DNA data bank as if just mentioning it in legislation will somehow empower law enforcement agencies to act upon it is disingenuous. The reality is that it takes years, as he mentioned, to train individuals to properly use that data bank which already has an enormous backlog. The reality of adding all this new information on top of a system that already has a huge backlog will cause huge problems.

I think the point the member makes is a critical one, which is that we should be having a debate on honest evidence and we should have an opportunity in a bipartisan way to look at these issues in committees, working collaboratively, making recommendations and then making legislation through that process, rather than striking it on the back of a napkin to make political points.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I wanted originally to talk about the process because, as the member will know, the public safety committee had been working on this issue for a long time. Before the report that it was able to issue was out the door, the government jumped ahead and introduced legislation of its own, which made a mockery of all of the witnesses who, in good faith, appeared before the committee, who contributed, who like all of us in this House wanted to ensure that the registry becomes more effective.

As I do not have very much time, let me just confine my question more specifically, because it seems to me that the two most contentious issues of the bill that is before us now centre on both automatic registration and access to the registry for prevention purposes. For the former, much depends on the list of offences; and for the latter, what the details of access consist of. So, in the final analysis, we have to be cautious of appearing to be protecting the interests of convicted sexual offenders while balancing privacy rights.

I wonder whether the member could just address whether he thinks this bill strikes the right balance, with respect to those two issues, in particular.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, I think the reality is that this bill does, by and large, strike a fairly good balance. I think there are a couple of areas that we are concerned about. However, when we were researching it through committee and we heard from witnesses, I think the areas that needed change were very important. Unfortunately, the Conservatives did not listen to them the first time. Now that, after prorogation, they killed their own bill and brought it back, some of the House recommendations are being adopted, now, in this bill.

One of the things we have to get to the point of is that we are returning to a day when crime was not something that was a political football. This is too important an issue with which to play political games. I think we have seen crime politicized more than at any other time, as the government uses crime, and the issue of crime, as a political weapon on something that is very emotional and difficult for people to deal with.

We need to be focused on evidence, what works, and not sensationalism.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
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Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour for me to speak today on Bill S-2, which is an exact copy of Bill C-34 as amended by the Standing Committee on Public Safety during the last Parliament.

We were in favour of Bill C-34 in principle and the witnesses we heard—I was also on the committee at the time—reinforced us in our position. We proposed some amendments that were adopted. By the way, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, with whom I worked on this file.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill on the sex offender registry. It is further proof that when we work on bills, we work on them one at a time in a constructive spirit, without engaging in the demagoguery and Conservative grandstanding to which we have become accustomed.

First, I would like to remind the House that the current Sex Offender Information Registration Act came into force on December 15, 2004.

Bill S-2 is intended to make the sex offender registry more effective and helpful to police forces in their preventive efforts as well as during investigations of sex crimes.

It aims, therefore, to register more people convicted of sex crimes and to include more information about them, especially their DNA.

Bill S-2 also imposes further obligations on the individuals listed in the registry if they move or expect to be absent from their homes for an extended period.

Some changes were made. Specifically, in addition to adding more offences that result in inclusion on the registry, clause 5 of the bill changes the procedure through which the courts order inclusion on it.

In the case of what are called direct sexual offences, the current system gives the crown attorney a choice of whether or not to ask for the person to be included on the registry after being convicted of the offence.

With the new registry in Bill S-2, this is no longer in the hands of the Crown. As soon as someone is convicted and sentenced for a sex crime, he or she must automatically comply and be included on the registry. I want to make it clear that this applies to sex crimes.

Furthermore, the new clause eliminates the exemption that applied when the offender established that the impact of his or her inclusion on the registry, including on personal privacy or liberty, would be grossly disproportionate to the protection of society.

In other words, when a direct sexual offence is committed, registration is automatic. Individuals convicted can no longer justify that their inclusion on the registry would be disproportionate to the penalties they would suffer in their private lives or regarding their liberty.

For other designated crimes, those known as serious crimes or conspiracy to commit a sex offence, thus more indirect crimes, at that point it is up to the Crown prosecutor to determine whether to ask the court to include the individual on the sex offender registry.

Clause 40 of Bill S-2 also makes an important change regarding how the registry can be used. Under current legislation, the registry can only be used when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a sex offence has been committed. Bill S-2 allows police to consult the registry for prevention purposes.

In addition, if this bill passes, there will be a correlation among offences that lead to inclusion on the sex offender registry and the sex offender's obligation to provide a sample of bodily fluids in order to add his or her DNA to the national DNA data bank.

Now I would like to talk a little about money. As my Liberal colleague and my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin mentioned, this will call for a lot more analyses, whether for investigations or for prevention.

In its last budget, the government announced $14 million over two years for DNA testing. In fact, in April 2009, in committee, we met with the directors of two major laboratories, one in Quebec and the other in Ontario. The third laboratory in Canada is the RCMP laboratory. Mr. Prime, from the Centre of Forensic Sciences, and Mr. Dufour, from the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale, told us in April 2009 not only that was there no agreement with the federal government, but that they also had to do a huge number of tests with very little money. Unfortunately, it might take over a year to get results.

On March 18, the minister met with us at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We asked him questions about this, but we did not get many answers. I have also spoken with a few officials, who have confirmed that there was still no agreement with Quebec and Ontario. They were not even able to tell us how much of the $7 million would be going to the laboratories in Quebec and Ontario.

If we look to previous funding, it was approximately $2 million per laboratory. We might imagine that there is really no increase. With this bill, whether or not it is intended, there is going to be a major problem if we do not invest more money in forensic laboratories. We are certainly going to see increases.

I will be told that this is nothing new. We see all the bills they are introducing. We see people being increasingly treated like criminals. They want to have longer sentences, but they are investing billions of dollars in just anything, be it for a G8 or for a G20. Obviously we will have to invest billions of dollars in correctional services and for public safety. When a decision is made to incarcerate people, they have to be sent somewhere. I hope it will not happen as it usually does, that they will invest in bricks and mortar, but nothing will be put into programs. In correctional services, at present, 2% or 2.5% of the total budget is allocated to programs.

I will continue on the subject of Bill S-2. The present legislation provides that the database may not be used where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a crime of a sexual nature has been committed. With Bill S-2, the database can be searched. But it will cost, and it will cost a lot.

The Bloc Québécois believes that police forces must be given tools that, on the one hand, effectively prevent and fight crime and, on the other, do not trample the fundamental rights of Quebec and Canadian citizens.

The proper protection of our children requires a number of tools. One of them, which is important and seems fundamental to me, is the Internet. Unfortunately, it is also the tool of choice for the child pornography industry. I will provide some statistics in support of my comments.

It is estimated that more than 65,000 people—I find this to be a conservative figure as I believe the number to be much higher—exchange child pornography, both photos and videos, on the Internet. In February 2009, the Ontario Provincial Police dismantled a child pornography ring involving 31 people in different Ontario communities.

Mr. Stewart, of the OPP child sexual exploitation section, stated: “Unfortunately, I believe there's thousands of children we're not getting to, and that's particularly difficult.”

In 2004, 480,000 child pornography sites were identified in the world, compared to 4,300 in 1996. In addition to movies, more than five million images of sexually abused children are circulating on the Internet. The pictures are becoming increasingly explicit and feature younger children and the use of violence. Many movies are shot live for the entertainment of pedophile clients and they show abominable sexual abuse of children under the age of seven.

In addition, it is estimated that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 organized child pornography rings, with a third operating in the United States and a portion in Russia. Are we immune to it? No, and I will cover that. We also have a large number of these types of sites. I am not talking about individual sites or images put on the Internet by a “family man” who abuses his child. I am not talking about amateurs, but about organized professionals.

According to research conducted by from 2002 to 2009, 57.4% of images on Internet sites containing child pornography depicted children under 8 years of age; 24.7% showed children aged 8 to 12; and 83% were of girls. More than 35% of the images analyzed showed serious sexual assaults. Children under 8 were most often depicted being abused through sexual assault (37.2%), and 68.5% of extreme sexual assaults occurred against children under 8. Canada is in the top three. That is amazing. According to Statistics Canada figures, we rank third in the world among countries that host child pornography sites. The United States ranks first with 49.2% and Russia, second with 20.4%. Who is in third place? We are, with 9%.

We also have people who produce child pornography in Canada. A police officer told me he had even seen images of assaults on newborns. We have to wonder.

I mention this because Bill S-2, which is a rehash of a previous bill, is not the only bill that targets this sort of crime. There are also Bills C-46 and C-47, which still have not been reintroduced here in the House.

Since 1999, police forces across Canada have been calling for a law that would respect human rights, of course, but would force Internet service providers to reveal the IP addresses of their pedophile clients and to have the technology to keep that information.

On April 22, during his testimony before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Mr. Sullivan, who was then the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and who had been appointed by this government, answered my question. I asked him what he thought about the fact that these bills still had not been reintroduced. He answered, “...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 perfectly described the problem resulting from the fact that this legislation is not on the books. I will read what he said. It is horrible.

Right now, depending on where you are in the country and what ISP company you're working with.... Some ISPs will actually cooperate with law enforcement, and some won't.

We've heard about cases from law enforcement. They have an IP address. They actually are able to trace the guy to where he lives, and they go, because he's trading in child pornography.

They actually found and arrested the person. He had with him his 11-month-old son, who he was sexually abusing. Now, law enforcement had no information that this was taking place. They had no idea that this child was in that situation. Had they not tracked him down, that child today, four years later, would still be undergoing sexual abuse. 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.

I find that disappointing, especially since we know how many years it can take to develop a bill. It is high time that this be passed.

The former victims' ombudsman lamented the fact that in 2007 the former public safety minister and member for Okanagan—Coquihalla did not want to follow up on repeated requests from the police to adapt investigative tools to the current Internet reality. However, in fall of 2009, the Conservative government finally introduced Bills C-46 and C-47 to respond to this Internet loophole. And what did the Prime Minister do? He prorogued the House and these bills died on the order paper. How convenient. It was put off until fall and then they prorogued a few months later, as if by chance. And they did not reintroduce them.

The Conservatives say that pedophiles are a priority and that this is a serious issue. As usual, they are serving up the same old announcements, about victims and children. They are grandstanding for everyone, trying to score political points. They are not really fighting crime. Have they reintroduced the bills? No. Why? That is the million-dollar question given that this government says that it wants to protect children and fight against crime and criminals.

Here is the question we must ask ourselves: what interests are preventing this government, which claims to be a champion when it comes to cracking down on pedophiles, from bringing back the old bills C-46 and C-47 so that we can study them in committee and improve them? Police forces have been waiting for 10 years now, and this government, despite advice from the former victims' ombudsman, has still not dealt with an issue that the ombudsman and I both believe could save children's lives. Ask any police officer; they will all say the same thing.

There is something else that just does not make sense. In my riding, and probably in other ridings in Quebec and Canada, the government is letting pedophiles live in halfway houses and community correctional centres near elementary schools and daycares. That makes no sense. I have asked three different public safety ministers about this. Three public safety ministers later, nothing has happened. That is absurd. Can a government that makes a huge show of introducing big, important bills not send a simple directive to community correctional centres through Correctional Service Canada? These centres are not even private; they belong to the CSC. The government cannot even send out a simple directive to ensure that there will no longer be pedophiles near elementary schools.

The government is waiting for another scandal to break out. Then they will react, just as they did with Olson and Karla Homolka. They will react by saying that the matter is very serious and that they want to introduce a bill.

That is shameful. According to the former ombudsman, every month that goes by, children could have been saved, as I said before.

As we speak, children are being attacked on the Internet, and pedophiles are living near schools. I would like to know when the government will take real action to properly protect our children.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2010 / 5:05 p.m.
See context


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from the Bloc Québécois on her speech. Bill S-2 was formerly Bill C-34, if I am not mistaken. The government is reintroducing it as Senate Bill S-2. If Parliament had not prorogued, Bill C-34 could have become law. Now we are back at square one.

Can the hon. member explain to me why the government has chosen to introduce this bill as a Senate bill and not a government bill?