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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

12:15 p.m.

Kim Pate Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for inviting us to appear. I bring regrets from members of my board of directors who were unable to appear with me.

I come representing 25 member societies that work with victimized and criminalized women and girls across the country. My comments will be brief, but I look forward to some of the discussion.

I would suspect that most of us everywhere would prefer that young people and children refrain from sexual activity until the time they are of sufficient age and maturity to engage in caring and consensual relationships. That being said, none of us want to see young people exploited, and none of us want to see young people further victimized. But we think the current Criminal Code health and child welfare provisions adequately cover many of these areas.

From our perspective, the gap tends to be in the bigger issue of the sometime lack of political or administrative will to ensure the existing laws and protections are implemented and the protections in fact exist in the way they're intended. There is also sometimes a reluctance to pursue those who violate those provisions.

We also have concerns about who might be pursued in this context. Let's say you have a young woman who engages in a sexual relationship with an older man and is observed by a doctor. We see situations where the young woman might refuse to provide information. We'd be loath to see those young women end up being cited for things like contempt or other potential charges. Those realities exist now, I would suggest, because of the lack of will to ensure that the current provisions are implemented in a gender-specific and fair way.

We also want to protect children in terms of a variety of other areas, but we don't see, for instance, the same interest in other potential areas where young people are being exploited, whether or not it's child pornography. We know there's an interest in that area, but pornographic advertising techniques aren't challenged in similar ways.

If we're interested in not promoting the sexualization of young people, I think there are many other areas we need to look at, including broader based education campaigns and ways to limit the use of young people who are increasingly being sexualized at very young ages.

We also do not support a differential age in terms of anal intercourse. If you decide to in fact proceed with this bill, in the alternative, we're interested in having some discussions about the issue of rebuttable presumption.

That's our submission. Thank you.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you.

Age of Consent Committee, Andrew Brett and Nicholas Dodds. Who will be presenting?

12:20 p.m.

Andrew Brett Member, Age of Consent Committee

Both of us.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Keep your comments to ten minutes and I won't cut you off.

March 29th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.

Nicholas Dodds Member, Age of Consent Committee

Thank you very much for having us here today.

My name is Nicholas Dodds. I'm a youth rights advocate from Aurora, Ontario.

Andrew, would you introduce yourself?

12:20 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Andrew Brett

I'm Andrew Brett. I'm also a youth from the GTA.

12:20 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Nicholas Dodds

The Age of Consent Committee is a coalition of youth and youth advocates who came together in early 2006 out of concern for the dangerous effects of Bill C-22, which proposes to raise the basic age of consent in Canada.

Our members consist of students, social workers, sexual health workers, youth workers, and most importantly, young people themselves.

Over the past few days you've heard many arguments on both sides of this bill, and while we agree with many of the groups that have presented, there is a notable lack of input from young people themselves. We are here today in an attempt to bring youth concerns with this bill to the table.

12:20 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Andrew Brett

As young people, we stand unequivocally opposed to Bill C-22 on many grounds, which we will outline in four main points.

The first one is that the motivation for this bill is based out of illogical fear and hysteria about cases that are either already illegal or exaggerated.

Number two, increasing the age of consent would result in young people not seeking out vital information or services related to sexual health.

Number three, an increase in the age of consent would result in social workers and teachers being reluctant to provide adequate sexual health information to young people.

And number four, this bill will have a—

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Excuse me. Just slow it down a little bit so that interpreters can keep up.

Thank you.

12:20 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Andrew Brett

Okay.

Number four, this bill will have a disproportionate impact on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, and queer youth.

12:20 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Nicholas Dodds

After reading the news reports and minutes from previous witnesses at this hearing, it is frustrating to hear the type of evidence being presented to bolster the case for Bill C-22.

One newspaper reports that a witness used the sexual abuse of a two-year-old as justification for this bill, as if the law was somehow unclear on this and needed to be strengthened. The supporters of this bill claim that the age of consent must be increased in order to combat child prostitution and child pornography.

The reality is that both of these activities are already illegal, not just for 14- and 15-year-olds but for anyone under the age of 18. The laws are absolutely clear: sexual abuse and exploitation are illegal. If these laws aren't being enforced properly, the solution is not to make them more illegal. Redundant criminalization will not suddenly create an environment where young people are empowered to recognize exploitation and come forward about abuse. More work needs to be done to educate and empower youth, and Bill C-22 will be counterproductive to these aims, for reasons that will be outlined later.

Another claim is that Canada is a haven for pedophiles who want to take advantage of our supposedly low age of consent. In reality, when taking into account the 2005 law that expanded the definition of exploitation, which I believe was Bill C-2 before being passed into law, the Department of Justice says that “Canada's criminal law framework of protection against the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and youth is amongst the most comprehensive anywhere.”

Our second point is that increasing the age of consent will actually put young people in more danger by inhibiting their access to sexual health information and services. In the United Kingdom, where the age of consent is currently 16, a survey of young women found that those under the age of consent were six times more likely to say that “fear of being too young” prevented them from seeking help.

In fact, the Department of Justice itself stated just two years ago that the age of consent should not be increased to 16 because “educating youth to make informed choices that are right for them is better addressed through parental guidance and sexual health education than by using the Criminal Code to criminalize youth for engaging in such activity”.

12:25 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Andrew Brett

Our third point is that an increase to the age of consent would result in social workers and teachers being reluctant to provide adequate sexual health education and information to young people.

The Ontario Court of Appeal noted in a 1995 ruling how age of consent laws, which purport to protect young people, can actually have the opposite effect by preventing them from accessing information. I'll quote from the ruling:

The health education they should be receiving to protect them from avoidable harm may be curtailed, since it may be interpreted as counselling young people about a form of sexual conduct the law prohibits them from participating in. Hence, the Criminal Code provision ostensibly crafted to prevent adolescents from harm may itself, by inhibiting education about health risks associated with that behaviour, contribute to the harm it seeks to reduce.

Through federal and provincial laws and professional codes of regulatory bodies, mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse is widespread across Canada. In Ontario the Child and Family Services Act mandates reporting if the young person is under the age of 16. This applies to teachers, social workers, youth workers, doctors, nurses, and many others.

By criminalizing consensual sexual activity involving 14- and 15-year-olds, previously legal activity will now be considered abuse and the prospect of mandatory disclosure may prevent professionals from assisting young people. As a former peer counsellor for youth myself, I was trained to warn young people about the possibility of incriminating themselves or their partners before they spoke about their sexual activities. Increasing the age of consent would mean that more young people would have to be warned about disclosure and more of them would be reluctant to speak with professionals.

Our final point is that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, and queer youth will be disproportionately affected by this bill compared to their heterosexual counterparts. The choices of queer youth already face additional scrutiny when it comes to their sexual identity and activity.

In the Marc Hall case, when a 17-year-old high school student was denied a request to bring his 21-year-old male date to his prom, the school board chair justified this homophobic discrimination by claiming that Marc's partner was too old to bring anyway. In reality, many heterosexual students bring dates of similarly disparate ages to their school proms and rarely are these decisions ever questioned.

When youth are queer it is often assumed their choices are uninformed, just a phase, or that they are being recruited and exploited. In addition, given the widespread homophobia that exists among teachers, parents, and society in general, we have very good reason to believe that Bill C-22 will be disproportionately used to regulate the sexual lives of queer youth.

It is not uncommon for queer youth to seek out relationships with older partners, as they can provide much-needed recognition and support in a context where many of their peers are still closeted due to prevailing homophobia in schools and families. Such age-discrepant relationships are not always exploitative or harmful. In fact, they can be beneficial, and this recognition is an important one in the lives of queer youth. This proposed law would further isolate them and expose them to danger.

Gay and bisexual male youth are already explicitly targeted in current age-of-consent legislation through section 159 of the Criminal Code, which sets a discriminatory age of consent for anal intercourse. It is important to note that when this section was struck down by the Ontario Court of Appeal in May 1995 the majority opinion held that the discrimination was unconstitutional, not based on sexual orientation but on age. This sets a precedent that leads us to believe that Bill C-22 can be struck down as a violation of section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the basis that it discriminates against young people without demonstrable justification.

12:25 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Nicholas Dodds

The members of the Age of Consent Committee know from present and recent personal experience how youth are marginalized and their voices rarely heard in mainstream political processes. We note with anger and resentment that pushing forward this bill, which has had admitted virtually no consultation with communities of youth that are directly affected, sends a cynical political message about the importance of youth participation under the present government.

Additionally, we note that article 12 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child indicates that children and youth are assured the right to express their views in all matters affecting them and to be consulted in decisions that affect their lives. Given the fact that young people directly affected by this bill are currently denied the right to vote, we are especially frustrated at the lack of youth consultation in this process.

12:30 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Andrew Brett

As the only youth-led committee making a presentation to the justice committee on this bill, we urge you to listen to our concerns. Bill C-22 is dangerous for youth workers, health professionals, educators, and to young people themselves. We are firmly committed to defeating any move to increase the age of consent in Canada.

12:30 p.m.

Member, Age of Consent Committee

Nicholas Dodds

That's our submission.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, gentlemen.

I'd like to turn to Mr. David Quist of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. Dave, the floor is yours.

12:30 p.m.

Dave Quist Executive Director, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, members of Parliament, on behalf of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present to you our considerations in support of Bill C-22, an act to amend the Criminal Code on age of sexual consent

The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada is a research think tank based here in Ottawa. We are committed to bringing together the latest research on issues that face Canadian families and placing it in the hands of decision-makers such as you.

I offer my apologies for not having this presentation available in both official languages. Unfortunately, I received notice only on Tuesday that we would be appearing, and time restraints have necessitated that it be available only in English today. The clerk has copies, and they will distributed in the days ahead.

Bill C-22 is a bill that we are pleased to see being debated and poised for final voting in the House of Commons in the weeks ahead. As you know even better than I do, the premise of this bill has been under consideration for many years and advocated by family-friendly organizations for even longer.

In considering the text of this bill, it is clear to me that this bill will give law enforcement agencies and the courts the necessary tools to actively combat the sexual predators, those who would harm our youth. From my reading of the bill, this is not a sex bill, and rather is a child protection bill, strengthening protection of youth from adult sexual predators. It is clear from the legislation that the non-exploitive youth-to-youth sexual relationships are not under the microscope, but rather it is intended to give all levels of law enforcement the teeth to fight sexual exploitation.

Canadians have clearly stated that this change is wanted and widely supported. In May 2002 we commissioned a poll with Pollara, which, as you will know, is an international polling company. Through the survey, a total of 1,659 interviews were conducted with Canadians 18 years of age and older, in every region of Canada, and with roughly equal numbers of men and women. Through the survey three questions were asked on child pornography and, more importantly, the age of sexual consent.

The first question asked was the following:

Recently, the B.C. Supreme Court acquitted John Robin Sharpe of possessing and distributing child pornography on the grounds that his fictional stories depicting scenes of violence and sex involving adults with children have some artistic merit and could not be classified as child pornography.

Of the respondents, 86% either disagreed or strongly disagreed with this ruling.

The second question was the following:

Do you think strengthening child pornography legislation should be a high priority, a moderate priority, a low priority or not a priority at all for the federal government?

An astounding 91% of respondents stated that it was either a high or a moderate priority, and 76% of those said that it was a high priority.

The third question is most germane to our debate today:

There has been some debate lately about the age of sexual consent in Canada. Currently the age of sexual consent for most sexual activities is 14 years of age. Do you think that the federal government should raise the current age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 years of age?

An overwhelming 80% of respondents felt that it should be 16 years or higher.

This poll will be included with my information and dispersed by the clerk as well.

As you can see from these dramatic results, Bill C-22 is clearly in line with the results of our Pollara survey. Based on the media work—such as radio and television talk shows--that I have done over the past year, it is my belief that these results remain accurate today as well.

There have been arguments that there is no need to change the law in this matter and that it will unnecessarily penalize sexually active teens. I fail to see the logic of this argument. First of all, the bill allows for most inter-teen sexual activity, within a set age range.

Second, it is clear from reading this bill that it is not written to promote sex or sexual abstinence. Rather, it is intended to protect our youth from sexual predators.

Third, and of particular importance, according to Dr. Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale of the University of Windsor in her paper, “Sexual Health and Canadian Youth: How Do We Measure Up?”, taken from The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Spring/Summer 2001:

Half of young people do not initiate sexual intercourse until after their 17th birthday—approximately 3/4 do not initiate until their 16th birthday or later.

Clearly, moving the age of sexual consent to a minimum of 16 years of age is in keeping with this peer-reviewed study.

Information from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation of California mirrors Dr. Maticka-Tyndale's research. In their October 2003 report, “Virginity and the First Time,” their researchers found that

Most adolescents surveyed agree that sexual activity is most appropriate among people aged 18 and older, or those who are married or in committed relationships.

In June 2006 I took part in a talk radio show on the New 940 out of Montreal. The topic was raising the age of sexual consent. Prior to my segment, three teenaged girls were discussing this issue with the host. I found it interesting that they were unanimous in their support of raising the age of consent to 16. All three had been sexually active for several years, and all three felt that the biggest issue for them, in retrospect, was that they were not emotionally mature enough to deal with all that sexual activity brought with it.

Former justice minister Anne McLellan was quoted in the February 5, 2001 National Post as saying:

And people quite rightly believe kids are different—we all do. Young people simply lack, in many cases, the capacity to think and reason and understand the consequences and implications of their acts in the same way that adults do.

Mr. Chair, simply put, it's doubtful that the majority of teens under 16 fully understand and are fully prepared emotionally for sex. In light of this, society has an obligation to protect our children and youth from predators and from those who would take advantage of their youth and emotional immaturity. In the vast majority of cases, youth of 14 years of age are most often in a position of trust and dependency when dealing with older teens and adults.

So we turn to the implications of this bill and those who are targets. I'd like to bring some additional research to your attention as well. According to research on the website for Enough is Enough, approximately 89% of sexual solicitations are made either in chat rooms or through instant messaging, and one in five youth, ages 10 to 17 years, has been sexually solicited online. This was done by the Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001.

It is estimated that over 25% of youth participate in real-time chat, and even more use instant messaging. Internet exploitation is a very real problem today.

Furthermore, the American Medical Association reported in 2001 that “Solicited youth reported high levels of distress after solicitation incidents. Risk of distress was more common among the younger youth, those who received aggressive solicitations”—in other words, the solicitor attempted or made off-line contact—“and those who were solicited on a computer away from their home.”

A research project based in the United States examined 129 cases where predators targeted youth under 18 through the Internet. The study found that an overwhelming 76% of victims were between 13 and 15 years of age. Furthermore, female victims accounted for 75% of the targeted youth. Sadly, over half the victims described themselves as in love or as having strong feelings for their abuser. The study found that most of the predators were upfront with their young victims about being older adults looking for sex with teens. Predators are not hiding in the shadows but are openly manipulating young teens into consensual sex.

I note that in the federal budget that was just passed, the finance minister included a government investment of $6 million per year to “combat sexual exploitation and trafficking”. Our children are our greatest resource, and this measure reflects a sad reality within our society. For many of us, Bill C-22 will go a long way to assist this plan. According to Statistics Canada, the proliferation of sexual exploitation is highest among girls 11 through 19, peaking at 13 years of age, and among boys three to 14 years old.

Statistics Canada states that:

Assault rates against children and youth generally increased between 1999 and 2002, but have subsequently fallen in 2003 for each age group.

I don't have statistics beyond 2003, although I do note that those assault rates are still double what they were 20 years ago.

Mr. Chair, in conclusion, let me first thank all committee members for the opportunity to make this presentation to you. The Institute of Marriage and Family supports the premise of Bill C-22, an act to amend the Criminal Code on the age of sexual consent. As legislators, you can do nothing better than protecting our youth and giving the legal system the tools to fight against the sexual exploitation of them.

I look forward to your questions and the discussion on this important issue.

Thank you.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you very much, Mr. Quist.

Finally, Ms. Daphne Gilbert.

12:35 p.m.

Professor Daphne Gilbert Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee.

I'm on faculty at the law school at the University of Ottawa, where I teach, research, and write in both constitutional and criminal law.

I'm going to take a slightly different approach to my submissions from some of the others today. I'd like to raise two matters with the committee. The first is a constitutional issue that I see in the amendment, and the second are some criminal law policy questions that Bill C-22 provokes.

To begin with the constitutional law question, I can offer the committee a very brief overview of how this amendment comes into conflict with provincial powers over the solemnization of marriage. It may be that this conflict is ultimately remedied by the judicial doctrine of paramountcy, but I think the committee should be aware of the issues raised by a change to the age of consent to sexual activity. It's fairly settled law, I think, that it is within provincial constitutional competence over solemnization of marriage to set the minimum age for marriage. There are varying regimes in the different provinces and territories, but there are two problems that this amendment immediately creates. First, in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut the minimum age for marriage is currently set at 15, with parental consent. This raises an obvious conflict with the federal Criminal Code provision that forbids sexual activity under the age of 16 if there's more than a five-year gap.

The second problem that immediately arises is in provinces where the minimum age for marriage is 16 but where there are processes for obtaining permission at a younger age, either through the courts or through the officiating minister. Although I have some questions and concerns about the criminal law policy implications of the amendment, which I will raise in a moment, it is likely within the federal government's criminal law power to make this change.

Given, then, that both schemes are constitutionally permissible—provincial age limits under solemnization of marriage competence and federal criminal law age limits for lawful sexual activity—the legal question becomes how to resolve the constitutional conflict.

The judicial doctrine of paramountcy is the usual route for constitutional conflicts, and it provides that in cases of conflict between federal and provincial laws, the federal laws are paramount and the provincial law is inoperative to the extent of the conflict. The Supreme Court of Canada has tended to prefer a very narrow approach to paramountcy, leaving a great deal of room for the concurrent operation of federal and provincial laws, except on the point of express or direct conflict. Where there is, as the court describes, an impossibility of dual compliance, the federal law prevails.

It may be, as famously declared, that governments should stay out of the bedrooms of the nation, and it may be that lawmakers can envision a platonic marriage, but it seems evident that constitutionally speaking, it's impossible to reconcile a lawful marriage between a 15-year-old and a 21-year-old and a Criminal Code provision that makes sexual activity between those partners unlawful. From a constitutional point of view, therefore, the provinces are faced with having to raise minimum age limits to 16 if there's an age gap of more than five years between the parties.

I've read and heard the policy justifications for the proposed amendment, and if it's to be enacted, I certainly support the close-in-age exemption. I think it raises constitutional and social problems in the marriage context. The reasons for permitting teenage marriage are myriad: cultural, religious, and social. The reasons for preferring provincial competence over the solemnization of marriage must at least in part be a response to the more localized or community norms on marriage across the country. I worry that you are in particular creating problems in our three territories, the jurisdictions with presumably justifiable expressed age limits of 15 for marriage, with parental consent.

There are always bright lines to be drawn when age limits are involved, and generalized judgments about maturity and readiness. However, I think that when it comes to marriage involving parental consent or judicial order or minister approval, as the case may be, the Criminal Code prohibition on sexual activity between, for example, a 15-year-old and 21-year-old could be an absolute bar that is problematic and regrettable in those rare instances when all parties believe a marriage is within the best interests of the younger party. In short, on this point, I think the committee needs to consider specifically in the marriage context the defencibility around laws permitting a 15-year-old and a 20-year-old to marry and those that would forbid it if the older partner is 21.

This brings me to my final point on the constitutional question, and that is whether, given the constitutional conflict, a defencible exception could be crafted for sexual activity within marriage. I have two brief but very strong arguments against a marriage exception. First, it is my view that privileging otherwise unlawful sexual activity within marriage is no longer legally permitted, given our expanded legal and social recognition of common-law relationships, but more importantly, given that under no circumstances would we permit sexual violence in a marriage context. If sexual activity is deemed unlawful because a party is legally incapable of giving consent, this is an offence akin to sexual violence offences, and I would not think it constitutionally permissible to create marriage exceptions in this area.

Second, I think it's extremely problematic to create marriage exceptions to otherwise unlawful sexual activity where the marriage requires parental, court-ordered, or a minister's permission. This places the regulation of teenage marital sexuality directly in the hands of others and places parents, courts, and ministers in the untenable situation of offering consent for a child to engage in otherwise illegal sexual activity.

To conclude on the constitutional issue, it's my view that the committee needs to consider the constitutional question that arises by virtue of the amendment and take positive steps to ascertain whether it's appropriate for the provinces to either reconsider age limits to marriage or deal with potentially inoperative age limits in certain circumstances.

This brings me to my second concern with the legislation, and that's the broader criminal law policy questions at play. The amendment deals with social concerns around teenage sexual relations by creating a new category of criminals. While the goal of targeting sexual predators is one that no one would disagree with, I am unconvinced that from a criminal law policy perspective this amendment is the best way or even a good way to get at sexually predatory behaviour.

Given the social norms around sexual relationships, and what we can take judicial and political notice of, even without all the statistics and support, it's evident that this law primarily targets male sexual predators. In most sexual relationships, and certainly in most where a teenager is involved, the older partner, the unlawful partner, will be a man. This then becomes a Criminal Code amendment that primarily involves regulating the sexual lives of teenage girls, and while framed as gender neutral, there are obvious gender implications.

We already have many under-enforced provisions in the Criminal Code around sexual violence, sexual exploitation, and incest, as well as laws around pornography and prostitution. These laws could combine to offer powerful protection to teenage girls against sexual predators without infringing on their sexual autonomy or sexual health and with a far stronger social message around the kinds of behaviours we condemn.

We should strongly enforce laws around sexual violence. We should make sure we require a legal culture that sends a message to young people that they control their sexual autonomy, that they, and especially teenage girls, have the right to say no to sexual activity. We should condemn the patriarchy that encourages predatory behaviour or encourages men to believe they have to relate primarily in a sexual way to women. I think this is best done through the laws around sexual violence or abuses of trust, authority, and power. Creating a new category of criminals does nothing to change the culture and only drives teenage sexual activity further underground.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you, and I welcome any questions you have about either issue.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Ms. Gilbert.

I'm going to ask the committee members to bear with me and help me resolve a slight problem.

Mr. Comartin disappeared on me.

Mr. Comartin was first to leave; he had an appointment at a quarter to one, apparently. Next on my list was Mr. Moore, and I don't know if there's anyone else here—Mr. Murphy as well—

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Murphy has to leave.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

I will split the 15 minutes between now and one o'clock between Mr. Murphy and Mr. Moore.

Go ahead, Mr. Murphy. You have questions?

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Sure. Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Who else has to leave?

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

We thank you all for your testimony. We listened attentively.

I think, with fairness, we have to realize that we're in a context here where in the world, age limits are set; we're in a spectrum. Every community is different. In some places in the United States, there are age limits of 18 years, with no close-in-age exception. In Mexico, it's 12 years. So we're in that spectrum. We know that in Europe it's essentially a mixed bag between 14 and 16, some with close-in-age exception, some not. I think that's one of the contexts.

The other context that is very important to remember is that this is a committee that has a legislative and political aspect to it. And while I myself will support this bill, what made it palatable, despite the rhetoric of the continual efforts to get laws like this, is that this is the first time that a close-in-age exception of five years has been tabled by way of legislation. That makes it palatable.

Perhaps I could be further persuaded, through the eloquence of Mr. Trudell and others, of a presumption. I think that's a good suggestion.

But this is what we've been presented. We're happy with it, to some degree, but we must underline, as the official opposition, that it's piecemeal, that it doesn't take into account the glaring paucity of any reference to anal intercourse. This is a glaring hole, and it should have been addressed.

If this act were not purely political there would have been more of an omnibus nature about it. But we're here, and this is what we have, and frankly, I support it.

I heard some very interesting testimony. I have two questions. One is to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and the other is to the Elizabeth Fry Society—and it picks up on your comments. It's the whole aspect of minors—people under 18 in the provinces like Ontario, and 19 in the province of New Brunswick. It's a hodge-podge. To quote our neighbours to the south, you can be old enough to go to war and lose your life, but not to drink in the state of Texas. We know that everything from Texas, politically, doesn't make sense. But in this country, looking in the mirror, we see we have some problems in terms of age discrepancy with respect to certain rights. I know the Civil Liberties Association would be very interested in those anomalies. Frankly, because I don't follow it that closely, I've yet to have a lot of information from what work you're doing either in B.C. or across Canada with respect to those anomalies.

I'd like to hear a little bit about that, because we're under time constraints, keeping in mind that you have to share your time with the second question, which I'm putting to Ms. Pate.

Ms. Pate, you said, and this is as close to a quote as I can get, “There is a political and practical reluctance to enforce existing laws.” You went into one example. I'm very much interested in that, because as you know, we believe that police forces are under-resourced and that they have to cherry-pick what laws they are going to enforce. Sometimes judges do this. Sometimes prosecutors do this. Rather than throwing legislation and letting it stick on the wall—most of it poorly written, like on the back of a napkin in the parliamentary secretary's office, perhaps—we need a more comprehensive enforcement policy and to resource that.

Those are my two brief questions. I would ask you to respect the time in answering those.