An Act to amend the Criminal Code (life imprisonment)


Frank Caputo  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Outside the Order of Precedence (a private member's bill that hasn't yet won the draw that determines which private member's bills can be debated), as of Oct. 4, 2022

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This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to increase the maximum penalty to life imprisonment for certain indictable offences.


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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2023 / 4:45 p.m.
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Frank Caputo Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

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.

December 5th, 2022 / 12:10 p.m.
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Frank Caputo Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you, Mr. Brock, for your question. That's very true. We have to realize that children themselves who are victims of sexual abuse are often placed in a psychological prison for life. Our penalties, in my view, should reflect the fact that children are not only harmed; they are being continually harmed.

In this type of offence, for the possession of child sexual abuse and exploitation material, they are victimized each and every time somebody downloads it, somebody watches it, somebody accesses it or somebody distributes it. We cannot overlook this. The abuse itself happens once, but it is perpetuated each and every time somebody accesses those things. The mandatory minimums passed by the Harper government were struck down, and at this point I am trying to express to the minister the disappointment with the Liberal government that it hasn't acted.

Right now, if you sexually assault an adult, the penalty is 10 years for taking their sexual dignity, inviolability and consent by force. Sexual interference—that is, a sexual offence against a child who is incapable of consent by law—has a maximum sentence of 14 years. Robbery, which is the taking of property from somebody by force, has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. We treat the taking of property more seriously than we do the taking of somebody's dignity and consent. If you were to ask people, “Would you rather be the victim of a robbery or the victim of a sexual assault?”, I can tell you that 99%, maybe 100%, would say, “I will take the robbery any day.”

It is time we start addressing the issue of sexual offences, particularly sexual offences against children, with the seriousness it deserves. This bill is the first step that I will undertake. I have another private member's bill on this, Bill C-299. I thank Mr. Arnold for running with this with such vigour. I appreciate all he has done with that.

Thank you.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 17th, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
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Frank Caputo Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand on behalf of the people of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

Standing here, for me, is a bit of a dream. As my colleague for North Okanagan—Shuswap mentioned, this is a bill that I drafted. As I stood behind him when he was speaking, I was moved because two years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be sitting behind him in the House of Commons or standing up on this point, which deals with an issue so close to my heart.

Making this a reality is key. When I stood on people's doorsteps, I would tell them that this is something I wanted to change when I got to Parliament, and I am indebted to my colleague for North Okanagan—Shuswap for using his spot in the priority to work together to get this bill passed.

Before I get any further on this point, I would like to say that, in my maiden speech, this issue came up. I implored everybody in the House to change the definition of the term “child pornography” because it is not pornography. It is not consensually made material. To be speaking to this bill here today is one of the greatest honours of my career.

I would like to read from somebody who was a mentor to me on the bench and also in the classroom, the hon. Judge Gregory Koturbash. Like most good lawyers, he was educated at the University of Saskatchewan faculty of law, and I would like to read a decision of his. He wrote:

The phrase “child pornography” dilutes the true meaning of what these images and videos represent to some degree. The term “pornography” reinforces the perception that what is occurring is consensual and a mutual experience between the viewer and the actor. These are not actors. It is not consensual. These are images and videos of child sexual abuse.

Judge Koturbash continued:

The problem is so pervasive that police are required to triage and pursue only those with extensive collections or those involved in dissemination. One judge describes it as a virtual firehose spewing depraved and disturbing images across the internet. In addition to the ever-increasing supply, changes in technology make fighting its growth increasingly challenging.

I am standing before members today as a legislator, but I am not the Minister of Justice and I am not the Prime Minister. I do not want to put words in the mouth of my colleague from the NDP who spoke before me, but I understood him to say that this is a change in the wording and not necessarily a change in what is happening in combatting what is occurring.

Let us not make any mistake. What is occurring in this sort of material is the repeated victimization of children. I say “repeated” because the act itself happens, and the act is recorded. Every time that media is disseminated, viewed or passed on to somebody else, that child is revictimized, and we cannot lose sight of that. The children do not ask to be abused. However, not only are they abused, but that abuse is also perpetuated. It is my view that sentencing must get in line with the pernicious and insidious nature of this offence.

As my colleague from the NDP just alluded to, I also thank the police officers. Most people do not know what police go through. If there is a large downloaded data extraction for the police, often a police officer will have to go through nearly all of those images to ensure there is not a victim that was offended against by the person in possession of them.

We will have police officers at a constable level who go through, literally, 3,000 media files. They could be out on the streets. They could be investigating robberies. They could be investigating break and enters, but no, they are looking at media that will probably harm them psychologically maybe for the rest of their lives, maybe for a few months.

As a former prosecutor, I remember that some of the most scarring things were reading about what was in these files. I did not generally have to look at them. Those times as a prosecutor that I had to deal with these things even in the written word, I can say I viewed it as traumatizing, disgusting, vile material.

Make no mistake. I am not in a position to legislate unfettered on this point, but I will say this. If I ever am in the position where I can legislate with respect to sexual offences unfettered, I have a message. Those who carry out these offences should be worried. In a world where children do not even know that they may be being victimized, I will advocate for real penalties. In a country where people repeatedly trade images of children being abused, I will not take my foot off the gas pedal, nor will my Conservative colleagues do so, until anyone who trades in these images sees the inside of a jail cell.

Why? They are perpetuating the victimization of children again and again and again. We will not stop until that is exposed. I will look under every single rock I have to legislatively to put an end to this. I can speak for my own Conservative colleagues that we will do the same and I hope that every single person in the House does the same and is prepared to commit to the same.

Some people may disagree ideologically, but house arrest, where a person can enjoy the comforts of their life, is not an appropriate sentence legislatively for people who produce these materials, who access these materials and who distribute these materials. I call for us to end conditional sentence orders for possession, distribution and production of child sexual abuse material.

One of our greatest failings as a society is to allow our children to be victimized in this way.

This is not a partisan issue, but I can say this much. When I would attend conferences with people in British Columbia, there would be people in the same room, police officers, who, again, investigated this work, oftentimes to the detriment of their mental health, as well as prosecutors, subject matter experts and people who worked for non-profits. I will never forget when someone in the room said, “I am not going to use the term 'child pornography' anymore. Let us call it what it is: 'child sexual abuse material'.” That person stopped saying what they were saying because it is not pornography.

I encourage the House to not stop here. Let us deal with Internet luring. Let us deal with sexual interference. Let us deal with all of these cases. It is time for sentences to get stronger, just like I proposed in Bill C-299.

I know that my colleague from North Okanagan—Shuswap is passionate about this. I can speak for my colleagues on this side of the House. We are prepared to do whatever it takes.

Again, I thank my colleague for using his position in the order of precedence to bring this bill forward. I hope that it is the first of many to come in which we take seriously the protection of children.

November 17th, 2022 / 4:10 p.m.
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Frank Caputo Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Minister. It's always a pleasure to have you here before the committee.

I have to ask a bit of a selfish question, following up from the last time you were here. I asked about Bill C‑299, which would raise maximum sentences to life imprisonment for sexual offenders.

I'm wondering if you've had time to contemplate that and whether it's something you might be prepared to support.

October 24th, 2022 / noon
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Frank Caputo Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

The reason I used intoxication by alcohol is that, as I recall, that was Daviault. Those were the facts.

For me personally, this is an area of significant concern. That's why, two weeks ago, I put forward Bill C-299, which would raise the maximum sentences for all sexual offences—or not all, but almost all sexual offences—proceeding by indictment to life imprisonment to reflect this epidemic and to reflect the seriousness of this, to reflect that victims themselves are often put into a psychological life imprisonment when they are sexually assaulted.

Is that something you could see yourself supporting?

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

October 4th, 2022 / 10:05 a.m.
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Frank Caputo Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-299, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (life imprisonment).

Madam Speaker, it an honour to stand here on behalf of the people of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo—