Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to rise to finish the speech that I started on Wednesday about Bill C-26, which is back before us today.
Previously, I was talking about how important it is to punish those who commit sexual abuse against children, and that is why we will vote in favour of Bill C-26.
It is imperative that we eradicate this scourge. As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to prevent these crimes from happening. As I said on Wednesday, even a single case of child abuse is one too many. We must therefore take a preventive approach, which Bill C-26 does not do.
Since 2006, the Conservative government has taken steps to protect children, and we commend those measures. Among other things, they made it illegal to provide sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence, strengthened the sex offender registry, increased the age at which a young person can legally consent to sexual activity from 14 to 16 years, put in place legislation to make the reporting of child pornography by Internet service providers mandatory, and made it illegal to use computers or other means of telecommunications to agree with or make arrangements with another person to commit a sexual offence against a child.
I was hoping that those measures could have been effective. However, when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights concerning the supplementary estimates, the Minister of Justice said that sexual offences against children have increased 6% over the past two years.
That statistic is extremely troubling. It also shows that the government is taking a rather minimalist approach. One thing is clear: paying lip service is not enough. The lack of financial resources, in terms of both enforcing existing laws as well as preventing these crimes, makes any new legislation pointless.
For instance, the NDP has always supported the circles of support and accountability program, or COSA. However, the government recently announced that it was cancelling funding provided by Correctional Service Canada. This is penny wise and pound foolish, since it will have a huge negative impact on this prevention plan and community services to victims, which are already operating on a very meagre budget of just $2.2 million.
We also learned recently that, over a period of five years, the RCMP did not spend over $10 million that was earmarked for the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre and other essential government projects to fight child pornography.
The cuts, made in part as the RCMP's contribution to the deficit reduction action plan, were imposed even as the number of public reports of child abuse was increasing at an alarming rate.
Tougher prison sentences and stricter measures are certainly effective ways of preventing repeat offences, but they do nothing to eliminate the problem in the long term if the necessary human and financial resources are not assigned to prevention programs and efforts to raise awareness among the public and the authorities about this absolutely appalling type of crime.
As I said, we will support Bill C-26, since the NDP has always had a zero tolerance policy when it comes to any type of sex crime. That is another reason why we are disappointed that the bill did not go further and propose truly effective measures for protecting our children and tangible preventive measures to make our communities safer.
In that sense, we are disappointed that Bill C-26 does not include any new funding or financial resources. Tougher prison sentences are a good start, but they are not enough. Our communities need resources to deal with the sexual abuse of our children, and Bill C-26 offers nothing new to that effect.
The other thing we take issue with is this government's lack of co-operation and refusal to do non-partisan work on a bill that we all agree on. All of us, as parliamentarians, could have worked together on this bill and pulled together to eliminate this terrible problem of child sex abuse.
Victims and the general public would have benefited from the government being more open-minded on such an important, non-partisan issue. The Conservatives ignored the recommendations of the associations, experts and professionals who testified in committee. It is sad and shameful to see the government turn such a serious and important issue into a partisan issue.
Nevertheless, in closing, the NDP will support this government's Bill C-26 simply because we believe that the measures proposed in it are a good start.
However, the NDP would have liked to take this further, particularly when it comes to prevention and allocating financial resources to the authorities and stakeholders in the field.
We hope that in future, the government will take expert and stakeholder opinion into account in important legislation like this. This is not about winning an election. This is about the well-being of our children, and political partisanship should have no part in that.