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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

10 a.m.

Branch Section Chair, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference, Canadian Bar Association

Kevin Kindred

Yes. The CBA takes the firm position that real equality requires the complete repeal. There are other aspects of section 159 that are also problematic for other reasons. So a complete repeal really would be the only full and workable solution.

10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Switching to another point, Ms. Mackinnon, is your agency the one that Wilson started, way back when?

10 a.m.

Executive Director, Justice for Children and Youth

Martha Mackinnon

I'm going to say yes.

10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Does he take credit for having set it up?

10 a.m.

Executive Director, Justice for Children and Youth

Martha Mackinnon

That would be the right answer. In fact, when he was an undergraduate law student, he wrote a paper saying that there should be such an organization. He didn't, in fact, legally create it, but it for sure was his idea, and he does talk about it with pride, I'll say.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Is he still involved?

10:05 a.m.

Executive Director, Justice for Children and Youth

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

To the Bar Association—and Mr. Quist, you may have some comments on this—this is in regard to the whole issue of youth being reluctant, even resistant or maybe in denial of needing health care, feeling that if he or she got involved in the health care system it would result in either themselves or their partner being charged. I've been looking for a mechanism, either amendments to the code, amendments to the Canada Evidence Act, that would make any information that they gave not compellable, but admissible if it was given voluntarily.

Has your agency or the Bar Association looked at that issue? It was up before the committee once before.

10:05 a.m.

Executive Director, Justice for Children and Youth

Martha Mackinnon

We have not. I have not actually written a brief or a clear position on that. We have paid attention to the desirability of creating safe environments for young people to testify and for their evidence to be given the same weight as adult evidence. That part we have paid attention to, but your suggestion is certainly worth our following up on.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

The Bar Association.

10:05 a.m.

Branch Section Chair, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference, Canadian Bar Association

Kevin Kindred

We haven't considered the issue in any formal way, and we have no submission, really, to make on the issue, but I perhaps can sort of flesh it out a little bit.

The obligations that a doctor would face to report fall under provincial legislation, child and family protective legislation. They put an obligation on doctors to report situations in which they feel a child is at risk of abuse, essentially. In reality, that's not necessarily the same as whether there were criminal offences committed. There might be cases where criminal offences have been committed that are abusive. There might be cases where criminal offences have been committed where there is no ongoing risk of abuse. And there may be cases where there is ongoing abuse, but no Criminal Code offence has been committed. So the two aren't precisely and identically the same issue. No matter what happens with the age of consent in Parliament, it will still fall to doctors to make those judgments.

Addressing it through the Canada Evidence Act would address part of that concern, but most of it would probably fall to the provinces.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I have a quick question to Ms. Barr-Telford.

This is a chart, which we were given, I think, Mr. Sullivan, from your agency when we were doing Bill C-2, the child porn bill. It's a chart of all the countries in the world and their ages of consent.

Has Juristat done a look at that around the globe, what the age of consent is?

10:05 a.m.

Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

Lynn Barr-Telford

No, we haven't.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Sullivan, did we get this from you?

10:05 a.m.

President, Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Comartin.

Mr. Moore.

March 29th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to all the witnesses. I certainly heard some thoughtful insights today on the bill, and some important issues have certainly been raised.

I want to focus on the reason we brought the bill forward, and that was to prevent the exploitation of children, 14- and 15-year-olds, from adult sexual predators. That's the main issue and the main reason this bill was brought forward.

Mr. Gillespie or Mr. Sullivan, you've dealt with victims of crime, each of you. Why is there the need to raise the age of consent? We know there were measures that were brought in on Bill C-2. There is the issue of luring. Yet there was always the call that to really protect young people, 14- and 15-year-olds, the age of consent had to be raised.

Maybe you could just speak to what the current limitations are in the code that prevent us from being as effective as we could be once the age of consent is raised to 16.

10:05 a.m.

Consultant, As an Individual

Paul Gillespie

From the investigative standpoint of a front-line officer, it is heartbreaking to see the results of some of the life decisions that have been made by children of 14 and 15 years old because they were allowed to. In my opinion, children are often simply not capable of or able to make such serious life decisions, nor should they be able to. On the other side of the coin, you have very seasoned, mature adults who are very focused on having some kind of a relationship with a child through conning, persuading, or coercing a child into doing things.

On the thought that there could be some consent, I don't think a child under the age of 16 should be legally allowed to give consent. I believe it simply goes against the moral fabric of Canadians that somebody under that age might be able to be involved in a relationship with an older person, typically a man, with all of the repercussions that come from those relationships.

It is heartbreaking to be involved in an investigation and see the families come to us, expecting us to do something, and we can't do anything. I again think there is a general lack of knowledge in Canada on exactly what the laws actually say.

Again, this is a personal point of view on what it's like to deal with these situations.

Steve.

10:10 a.m.

President, Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime

Steve Sullivan

I would echo what Paul said.

The justice system is not a pretty place for victims of crime, especially young victims who have been abused or sexually exploited. I think it's one of the reasons the reporting rates are so low, and it's one of the reasons the numbers get even lower as it proceeds. It's a difficult thing.

For us, the issue is whether or not adults should be having sex with children 14 and 15 years old or younger. I think most Canadians would say no to that.

It's tough. When you get into the close-in-age exemption, we all agree there should be an age when young people can experiment with their peers. Personal relationships are difficult. They're not defined in black and white, as the law often demands, but I think at some point we have to make the cut-off.

Although I haven't considered the presumptive issue, one of the concerns I would raise is on putting young people into the courtroom to possibly testify on these things, to answer questions on whether or not they were exploited, and those kinds of things. I think if we simply cut off the age at five years, in many cases we would spare young people from going through that process.

There are going to be cases, as Mr. Lee has mentioned. Whatever the laws are, there are going to be cases where there is a grey area.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you both for that.

There's a message that we want to send out.

To both of you or to anyone else who has expertise in this area and wants to comment on it, we heard testimony today and we've heard testimony before about individuals who develop a relationship with a 13-year-old child, and they wait until he or she is 14. To be clear, this legislation is targeted at adults who want to exploit 14-year-old and 15-year-old children and take advantage of Canada's age of consent as it currently stands.

How fast is the message going to get out to the community you talked about that is behind what we see on the Internet? We heard prior testimony that they perhaps know the law better than anyone around the table as to what the age of consent is and what types of sentences people in Canada receive. They're very aware of the situation.

We also heard testimony that the average Canadian is not aware of it. To use the situation of the 45-year-old man, they think it is illegal for that person to have sex with someone who's 14 years old.

If this bill passes, how soon is that community going to get the message that things have changed and Canada is not the destination it was for people who want to have sex with 14-year-old and 15-year-old children and are significantly older than them?

10:10 a.m.

Consultant, As an Individual

Paul Gillespie

If I might, at the speed of light is the short answer, at the speed that the Internet allows.

The one thing I have learned about the criminal element and those who would use computers and the Internet to facilitate their crimes is that they use it very well. There is a tremendous networking capability, and intelligence passes back and forth. They have news groups, chat rooms, and bulletin boards for anything and everything. Every time I give a press conference different chat rooms go up, and exactly what I said appears on some of these bulletin boards.

I think they will very quickly get the message, and I think it's very important that they do so. It would send a very strong message.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Do I have time for one more question?

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Quickly.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

I want to ask a question to the CBA.

Mr. Kindred, I don't know if you remember me, but I remember you from law school at UNB, when you were a bright up-and-coming law student.