Hello. Bonjour. My name is Carrie Kohan. I am a child advocate who founded Mad Mothers Against Pedophiles and I am the co-founder of Project Guardian.
I've sat in front of this committee for many years now on various bills, and I'd like to thank the justice committee again for allowing me to speak to you on this matter today.
When looking at Bill C-22, age of consent, I feel like I'm having a déjà vu, because on October 7, 2003, four years ago, I sat in front of this justice committee on this very topic. It was Bill C-20, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act. It was an omnibus bill that tied in child Internet porn, artistic merit, and the support of vulnerable witnesses. Each one of these topics was a very serious issue and probably should have been addressed individually; however, they were lumped under one large bill.
In my address, I spoke of my concern that having a lower age of consent combined with such lenient sentences or non-existent sentences for convicted pedophiles would lead to Canada becoming a pedophile haven, which it since has.
According to the recent 178-page report compiled by EPCAT in December 2006, it states that Canada has indeed become a destination for child sex tourism because of its relatively lower age of consent. If that statement doesn't sound alarms in the whole of the justice committee, I don't know what else you'll need to hear to create change and understand the desperate situation our children are being put in as a result of our previous lawmakers and their apparent lack of concern for the safety of our children.
I also believe another contributing factor has resulted in our country being recognized as a pedophile haven, and that is our lack of sentencing for convicted pedophiles. In the hearings of October 2003, I shared with the then Liberal justice committee the 1997 stats that showed that in Canada, 60% of convicted pedophiles get jail time and 40% get conditional releases or house arrest. Of the 60% who get jail time, the average time served in prison was only six to eight months. This is because in Canada we can't enforce our maximum penalties. If we do, they are often appealed and reversed to a much more lenient sentence.
It is not that all Canadian judges don't want to give the maximum sentence; in Canada, they cannot. If a judge even tries to give a maximum sentence it is likely the convicted pedophile will successfully appeal his or her sentence and win, and the children of Canada and we as a society will lose. So the judge has no choice but to base his or her decision on precedent because our legal system is based on civil law.
Let's take a look at a recent conviction in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office, on November 3, 2006, a 54-year-old West Palm Beach man named James--or Jimmy--Oliver was convicted and sentenced to 130 years for just four counts of sexual exploitation and one count of possession of child pornography. The convicted man had traded child pornography online with another man and included a video of himself performing oral sex on a prepubescent child in his care. When a police seizure was made of Oliver's home, he was also found to possess images of child pornography on his computer.
On October 6, 2006, the West Palm Beach federal grand jury returned a 19-count second superseding indictment, charging Oliver with seven counts of distribution of child pornography and one count of receipt of child pornography, each of which carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years, up to a maximum of 20 years.
Oliver was also charged with two counts of distribution of child pornography to a minor in order to induce or persuade that minor to engage in sexual activity with him. These convictions also carry a minimum of five to 20 years. Oliver was also charged with four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor for the purpose of creating child pornography, each of which carried a mandatory minimum term of 15 to 30 years.
Oliver was charged with four counts of permitting a minor in his custody or control to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of creating child pornography, again a mandatory minimum term of 15 to 30 years. Lastly, Oliver was charged with one count of possession of child pornography, carrying a statutory maximum term of 10 years. In total, Oliver got 130 years in prison.
The U.S. judge also imposed restitution in the amount of $11,142 to pay for the victim's psychological counselling and a special assessment to be paid of $500. The judge also stated that no prison term, no matter how lengthy, can undo the serious harm done to these children.
Obviously, the United States of America has a zero tolerance policy for this crime. Now compare this to Canada. Can you understand why we are considered one of the places now to come and rape children and create child pornography and distribute it from? In May 2006, a Montreal man, who must remain nameless because of our laws, assaulted his young daughter from age 24 months to 4 years of age. He posted the pictures of this crime on the Internet. He was also found to have roughly 5,000 pictures and 5,000 videos of child pornography on his computer, some of which featured very young children and infants.
By the way, this actually brings up something else that I'd like to talk about later--the police issue of sampling. That's something we have to address.
Anyway, this 32-year-old Canadian man was sentenced to a maximum sentence of 15 years in November 2005. However, he won his appeal in the Quebec Court of Appeal and had his sentence reduced from 15 years to nine years. But in Canada nine years doesn't mean nine years; it actually means anywhere from three to six years, not including time served.
When the appellate court reduced the sentence, Judge Côté cited the man's crimes were not amongst the worst sexual assaults ever committed. And they also cited his young age--not the young age of his victim, but his young age. The court also cited the fact that this man had only one other criminal conviction, for sexually assaulting another child when he was 17 years old.
Here we have two similar crimes. The convicted pedophile in Canada has a prior conviction and possesses over 1,000 pieces of child pornography and gets maybe five to six years in prison, a prison that Canadians have now nicknamed Club Fed. The other convicted pedophile, in the United States, gets 130 years for virtually the same crime, and he has no prior conviction. Where do you think pedophiles would rather commit their crime? In a country where they could potentially get 130 years in prison or a country where they can get a maximum three to six years served? And that's if they are even caught in the first place.
The previous justice committee of Canada, Solicitor General, justice minister, and prime ministers that I have met or sat before over the past eight years have effectively put Canadian children on the top hit list for pedophiles to target. The only way to correct the ineffective laws of our past governments is to create new laws that will mirror those of our neighbours, so that we will no longer be the desirable destination of choice by pedophiles.
We need to increase our age of consent to 16 years minimum. In fact, the majority of Canadians that I have spoken to, which have been many, have actually wanted the age of consent to be similar to that of the United States and other countries and be raised to the age of 18. We need to include a close-in-age clause, four to five years. We need to grandfather previous relationships of one year or more that are outside that five-year age difference--within reason, of course. We also need to be on par with other democratic countries and implement minimum sentences of five years, to a maximum of 20 years, for various child-predatory-related crimes. I would personally like to see Carrie's guardian angel law adopt a progressive timeline for this type of sentencing.
I hope this justice committee understands the urgency needed here, and I also hope that this bill and the safety of our children does not become a bargaining tool for other political parties. That would be a shameful act, demonstrating that the will of the party is not to protect the children of Canada but instead to use the bill for the party's own political benefit or gain. Whether it is within the legal means of the political party to use this bill as a tool or not, I would ask that all parties present and the members of this committee pass this bill as a selfless act and act as a united parliamentary union in support of the protection of the children of Canada from predators.
Please ask yourself how many children are being raped at this very moment across Canada because of our ridiculous laws to date and the apparent lack of protection for Canadian children. And how many pedophiles are walking away with house arrests for abusing defenceless children?
Take a look at the 178-page report. You will see that we are a national disgrace. Only you, this committee, can do something about it. Please raise the age of consent immediately--today--and unanimously bring forward new legislation to introduce minimum sentencing for pedophile-related and violent crimes, such as the four violent crimes we witnessed in Edmonton, Alberta, over this last year, against Shane Rolston, Josh Hunt, Dylan McGillis, and, most recently, 13-year-old Nina Courtepatte. We'll be hearing that sentencing tomorrow.
These were violent crimes. The murderers deserve more than bail and house arrest.
Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.