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Evidence of meeting #59 for Justice and Human Rights in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was young.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Paul Gillespie  Consultant, As an Individual
Lynn Barr-Telford  Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada
Tamra Thomson  Director, Legislation and Law Reform, Canadian Bar Association
Margaret Gallagher  Treasurer, National Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association
Kevin Kindred  Branch Section Chair, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference, Canadian Bar Association
Judy Nuttall  Coordinator, Affiliated with Citizens Addressing Sexual Exploitation, White Ribbon Against Pornography
Steve Sullivan  President, Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime
Martha Mackinnon  Executive Director, Justice for Children and Youth
Karen Mihorean  Assistant Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada
William Trudell  Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers
Jason Gratl  President, B.C. Civil Liberties Association
Kim Pate  Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
Andrew Brett  Member, Age of Consent Committee
Nicholas Dodds  Member, Age of Consent Committee
Dave Quist  Executive Director, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada
Daphne Gilbert  Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
Christina Godlewska  Articled Student, B.C. Civil Liberties Association

1:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

Dave Quist

There's a great deal of social science research in this particular area. I do not have that with me. I would be pleased to present that through the chair to the clerk of the committee to pass on to the rest of the members.

There's certainly evidence that those children and those youth that are sexually exploited more often have higher rates of different forms of abuse later in their lives, be it substance abuse, be it mental abuse, the worst-case scenario obviously being suicide. Their education typically does not progress as far as it could or they don't reach their full potential. It is often seen as a major impediment that has changed their lives.

I would be pleased to present that information to the committee, chair and clerk, to bring that out and substantiate it. From within Canada, the U.S., and around the world, that social science is fairly solid.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Go ahead, Mr. Brown.

Ms. Pate did want to reply to your question.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

I have one more question, as I know my time is limited, for Mr. Brett and Mr. Dodds, just to get an idea for the committee where you're coming from.

This government legislation proposes the line at 16, and that's where our position stands. What is your opinion, going in the reverse? Is it the opinion of your organization that 14 is the right level, or do you think it's appropriate at 13 or 12? Using arguments that you have, suggesting that we are eroding some of the autonomy and rights of a 14-year-old, are you saying that would be the case with a 13-year-old too? If not, why the difference between a 13-year-old and a 14-year-old? Where is your line in the sand for the protection of children? And is there even a line?

1:50 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Andrew Brett

Our committee was set up to fight legislation proposed by the Conservative government. Our committee is not set up to decide what the age-of-consent legislation should be for Canada. It's to oppose the proposed legislation.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

You have no opinion of 13, 12, 11, 10, 9 as being inappropriate?

1:50 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Andrew Brett

It's not really a discussion right now. We're discussing a bill proposed by the government.

We need to fight this bill. We're not devising age-of-consent legislation. It's already—

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

That's what we're looking at. We're looking at age-of-consent legislation, and obviously we're going to get input. We want to look at all the spheres of that input.

That's not very helpful, but that's okay.

Thank you.

1:50 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Andrew Brett

I'd like to add one more thing. In response to “this is the mainstream values of Canada”, I'd like to point out that in a recent survey more Canadians thought it was more wrong to commit adultery than to have sex under the age of 16. I'm wondering if we're going to be debating adultery next at the justice committee.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Who knows? Whatever comes to the forefront. There may be some interested citizens who want to bring that forward. Right now we are discussing the age of consent.

Ms. Pate.

1:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Kim Pate

With respect to the question you asked, Mr. Quist, I think that is precisely the point I was trying to make.

You're putting forth this bill as though it will solve all those issues, and in fact it won't. It deals with a very specific issue. If your concern is the sexual exploitation, the abuse of children, then there are many other issues that need to be targeted as well. I recognize that for political reasons it may be the sort of message you're trying to get out. That's almost what it sounded like now, an attempt to portray this as actually stopping the sexual abuse of children, and clearly that's not what this bill is about.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Mr. Comartin.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Just a point, Mr. Chair. I did make reference in a question to this chart. It's hard to copy, but I'll copy it in some form and pass it around at a subsequent meeting.

Mr. Gratl, I don't know if I missed something, but you raised this issue of a defence based on a mistaken belief of age, and that whole issue. I thought there was a specific provision in the bill in the first section, 150.1, that deals with it. I thought it did. Have I missed something here?

1:50 p.m.

President, B.C. Civil Liberties Association

Jason Gratl

Perhaps not.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Okay. Because it does seem to address that if you have a reason, or your due diligence argument—this is the wording that they use—it's not a defence “unless the accused took all reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the complainant”. I think that would fit within your due diligence.

1:50 p.m.

President, B.C. Civil Liberties Association

Jason Gratl

That may be too high a requirement, “all reasonable steps”. It should perhaps read “reasonable steps”. Under the circumstances, “all reasonable steps” might be too high a burden to meet.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I assume they've used that wording because it's the same wording for the 12-year-old and the 13-year-old and the two-year and near-age defence.

1:50 p.m.

President, B.C. Civil Liberties Association

Jason Gratl

That might well be.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

That's all I have, Mr. Chair.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Comartin.

One final question for Ms. Freeman.

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

This will be my last question, I'll be brief. We have all been referring to the five-year close-in-age exemption. I would like Mr. Trudell to get back to this arbitrary five-year period. Relations between a 15-year-old youth and a 21-year-old adult have become absolutely illegal.

Can you tell us a bit more about this?

1:50 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

William Trudell

I was just picking up on a submission made by a previous witness here that maybe it's a presumption. The issue was raised about whether it's shifting the onus. I think it merits consideration so that there's room to look at each individual circumstance because we're talking about criminal legislation and penalizing in the circumstances. There may be circumstances where one is satisfied that it is not an exploitative situation.

One of the things that is really going to be important here is that all kinds of other committees and other work going on by the government and the justice committee and access to justice and justice inefficiencies are talking about looking at cases in the front end. These new sections really put the pressure on the police and the crown in the front end to make sure these cases are not just being swept into the system but are screened effectively. I think that's going to be very important that this message go out.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Trudell and Madam Freeman.

I'd like to thank the witnesses for appearing today and for your testimonies. They were certainly valuable for the committee, and we will deliberate on your comments.

The meeting is adjourned.