Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise on behalf of the people from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.
Before I begin, I want to recognize that my wife's nephew, Dustin Dempsey, passed away this week. Obviously, this is quite unfortunate. He was quite young. He leaves behind his father, Rio, who is my wife's brother, and his mother, Vivian. My condolences go out to the whole family. May perpetual light shine upon him.
I also want to send my condolences to a high school friend of mine and her family, Stacey Gagnon. Her father, Leslie Gagnon, or Les as he was commonly known, passed away recently. I offer my deepest condolences as well to her family. May perpetual light shine upon him.
I find it interesting that I am here talking about this. There is something that I would have likely spoken about with my students when I was teaching an advanced criminal law or sentencing class at Thompson Rivers University in the Faculty of Law. It is a course that has since been taken over by one of my mentors, Judge Greg Koturbash. He is teaching tomorrow, so this may come up.
I would have spoken about the notion of dialogue. That dialogue is between a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada and Parliament. What we have often seen when it comes to criminal matters is that the courts speak and Parliament is supposed to respond. However, it feels as though often, with the Liberal government, the courts speak and Parliament does not respond.
One of the things that I noticed here is that Parliament has not responded when it comes to sexual offences. I put the minister on the spot and I anticipate he is going to ask me a question, and I invite him to ask a question.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to look directly at him. I asked the minister, in a question, whether he supports restricting the use of conditional sentence orders, that is house arrest or jail in the community, particularly for people who offend against children. Yes or no? I really hope he addresses that question when we have time for questions and answers.
There is something that struck me and stuck out to me. This is the first provision. It is speaking about changing one of the provisions, somehow it got missed, section 153.1(1)(a) from five years to 10 years. I believe that is the sexual exploitation of a person with a disability. It says a person will be liable, on indictment, to 10 years.
Here is what is interesting about that, and it really frustrates me. It is not that we are raising it; it is that we are not raising it high enough. I tabled Bill C-299. I was heckled by the Liberals when I did it, but this is the thrust of Bill C-299. I am going to go through it one more time because I think it is extremely important and it is germane to this discussion when we talk about protecting children, which the Minister of Justice has said is a primary aim of this bill.
We have various offences in the Criminal Code that will end with a potential life imprisonment, as in life is the maximum sentence, and the one I always go to is robbery. Robbery is the deliberate taking of property without consent. Theft plus violence is robbery. It is the most basic thing.
What is sexual assault? What is a sexual offence? A sexual offence is a sexual element, violence and a lack of consent. What is the maximum term here? It is 10 years. The maximum term for sexual assault against an adult is 10 years. The maximum for most sexual offences against children is 14 years, yet we are falling into that same trap here.
We actually are valuing and saying that the taking of property without consent is more serious than taking somebody's sexual dignity without consent. It is only 10 years. That is what someone's dignity, inviolability and consent is worth: 10 years. It is incumbent on this chamber, and I will say to every single person here, that Parliament address this.
I would ask every single person here: Do members prefer to be robbed or prefer to be sexually assaulted? I can tell everyone right now, a hundred times out of a hundred, most people here would say, “I would take the robbery.” Why? It is because there is something about our bodily dignity. There is something about our bodily integrity.
There are victims, like the people with My Voice, My Choice, who spoke so eloquently to me in the past, who I found to be so compelling in their presentation. People in that position are often serving a psychological life sentence. When I ask the Minister of Justice whether he supports house arrest when these people are in a psychological jail themselves, there is a reason for it.
We, as legislators, have not kept up with the research that tells us the pernicious effects, and sometimes the insidious effects, of sexual violence against children. Yes, a registry is one step, but punishment itself is a primary step. I do put it to the Minister of Justice and hope he asks a question. It will just be a simple “yes” or “no”. Does he support the elimination of conditional sentence orders for sexual offences, particularly sexual offences against children?
My message here is not just for all of us here. We talked about a dialogue. Mr. Iacobucci talked about that in one of his decisions from many years ago. This is a dialogue I wish to have with judges, Crown prosecutors, of whom I was one, defence lawyers, and most importantly, victims: that those of us who are in this chamber will stand up for victims every single chance we get.
I have said it before and I will say it again. If we, as Conservatives, if I, myself, as the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, am ever given an opportunity to legislate in this area, I will not take my foot off the gas pedal until the views of every victim in this country are represented and the gravity of offences, particularly offences of a sexual nature against children, are adequately reflected in the punishment received by those who would take the innocence of a child.
I do have some experience with the publication ban end of things. It is something my colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke asked my colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul after her excellent presentation. I can remember, and it is one of the first times I can ever remember this happening, where a victim set aside her publication ban. We did have a number of people from My Voice, My Choice come forward and say, “I have been a victim. Please leave it to me whether or not I get to speak.” That will debated at committee. My hope is a representative from that group will be permitted to attend.
This legislation also imparts a new application for a victim that they can put an application forward and that the court must hold a hearing to determine whether the order is revoked, and will include the victim's wishes. Far too often we do not incorporate the victims. They are an afterthought.
Sentencing is so often an offender-centred approach, and I understand why. They are the person. However, when we ultimately look at who is impacted, it is not just the offender who is impacted, particularly when we are talking about sexual offences. One of the primary offences, for instance, is section 163.1 listed here as “child pornography”. It is my hope that term will never be used again in this legislation.
Bill C-291, which I drafted and my colleague from the Okanagan put forward, is currently at third reading in the Senate. It would change the name of “child pornography“ to “child sexual abuse and exploitation material” to reflect the actual harm done.
I see I am running of time. I hope the Minister of Justice rises right now in questions and comments to indicate whether he does favour eliminating house arrest for those who would steal the innocence of children when those children are themselves abused.