Mr. Speaker, I stand before all members of Parliament today to speak to private member's bill C-299, an act to amend the Criminal Code to impose a mandatory minimum sentence on a stranger who is convicted of kidnapping a child under the age of 16.
The smile of a child is one of innocence, based on an understanding that those in authority will watch over him or her. When a child reaches his or her hand out, it is in trust. It is the human touch that provides children with the security in which they find comfort. Every parent, grandparent or person who has the opportunity to feel that innocence and trust of a child knows exactly what I mean.
However, there is a small segment of society who do not appreciate the innocence of a child. They, on the other hand, see the vulnerability of the child and the ability to manipulate them, with Clifford Olson and Paul Bernardo being two of the most notorious.
More so, as a society, we soon forget that the families who are directly affected by these tragedies then live with the emotional scars for the remainder of their lives.
First, there is the struggle of wondering if the child is safe. Then there is the struggle of wondering if they will ever see their child again. Unfortunately, in most cases, reality strikes and hope turns to despair.
Someone asked me why I have such a deep desire to deal with kidnapping and, in particular, the kidnapping of young children. I have two reasons, one more close to home than the other.
The first involves Michael Dunahee, Mindy Tran and Kienan Hebert. I will speak to those three children in a few minutes.
As the House knows, I was a member of the RCMP for over 20 years. I have investigated everything from murder to domestic disputes to grow ops. I have dealt with death more times than I wish to remember and, to some degree, have become insensitive to it. However, the toughest thing I ever had to do as a police officer was to give a next-of-kin notification to a parent. On four occasions I have had to tell a parent that his or her child would not be coming home. It is not something that I would wish upon anyone inside or outside of this place. I have no words to describe the feeling of watching the heart and soul being ripped out of a mother and father. That is why I feel so strongly about this issue.
On Sunday, March 24, 1991, Michael Dunahee went missing from a playground in Victoria, B.C. He was four years old. Michael has never been found and the person who kidnapped him has never been captured.
During committee hearings, Crystal Dunahee gave testimony. It was heart-wrenching to watch her struggle after all those years without knowing where Michael was and hoping that he would still walk through the door of her Victoria home some day.
Mindy Tran was eight years old when she went missing while riding her bicycle on the street in Kelowna, British Columbia, in August of 1994.
Along with hundreds of other police officers, I was part of the ground search team desperately trying to find Mindy. Unfortunately, she was found dead six weeks later in a shallow grave not far from where she was taken. I cannot imagine what was going through that young girl's mind after being kidnapped, but I am certain it was not pleasant.
Kienan Hebert was three years old when he was kidnapped from his home in Sparwood, British Columbia, in September of 2011. A suspect was identified early in the investigation and Kienan was returned safely home to his parents.
We had three different outcomes, all started with a kidnapping by a stranger.
Whether it is the Clifford Olsons, the Paul Bernardos or others of the world, one thing is for sure: the acts they committed all started with a stranger kidnapping a child under the age of 16.
They have absolutely no concern whatsoever for the emotional toll they placed on families affected for the remainder of their lives. They have no concern for the child they kidnapped, for if they did, they would surely never commit the crime in the first place.
Society must be assured that the crime of stranger kidnapping of a child under the age of 16 is dealt with severely. This is why we must ensure that a mandatory minimum sentence be placed upon anyone convicted of this crime.
Do not forget that most people who commit this act have increased their propensity for violence, and their need for self-gratification becomes worse over time. Unlike some commenters I have heard, I do not believe that these people can receive any type of program available that would ensure they can safely integrate back into society.
I have listened to those who say that in some cases the perpetrator has mental issues and should be treated differently. I disagree. Most, if not all, individuals who kidnap children are cold and calculating and know exactly what they are doing.
I have listened to the opposition parties state that mandatory minimum sentences are an intrusion on the judges' powers. In my opinion, and for the children who are kidnapped by strangers every year, they are wrong.
This is not about judges' power. This is about children's rights and our obligation as a society to protect them from the evils of the world. In fact, most of the speakers from the other side who come from the legal profession know full well how the judicial system works, and in fact creating questionable language only opens up the opportunity for court and charter arguments, and does nothing for the victims of crime.
Canadians know what the word “stranger” means. In fact, at committee the amendment was made to define stranger as “not a parent, guardian or person having lawful care or charge of the child”. I believe that is fairly clear.
Let us get beyond the stick-handling of legal jargon and pass the bill. It is about our obligation as parliamentarians and law-makers that we do our utmost to ensure we give as much confidence to society in our criminal laws as is humanly possible.
I will be cutting short my speech because I do believe I have made my point. All I would say to the members of this House is that I encourage every member of Parliament to vote in favour of Bill C-299.