This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

Evidence of meeting #37 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was kidnapping.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

John Major  C.C., Q.C, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, Retired, As an Individual

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

The second thing I wanted to ask you about I'll just preface by saying that, of course, the government has been addressing the issue of missing children in a number of ways. One of them is the RCMP's Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which also houses the National Missing Children Services and the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre.

The government has also supported the recently launched MissingKids.ca website run by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, a non-profit organization, and these measures are both preventive and seeking effective enforcement.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you, Mr. Woodworth. We're out of time.

Go ahead, Mr. Cotler.

May 15th, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to welcome Mr. Wilks here. I appreciate your being here to lend your experience to us, on occasion, as a member of the committee. So it's a delight to have you here as a witness.

If I heard you correctly in responding to a question of Madam Boivin, you suggested getting rid of section 281. If that is the case, why would that not have been part of your own original proposal? If the opposition were to offer that as an amendment, would you support such an amendment with respect to your particular bill?

Noon

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you.

To me kidnapping is kidnapping. We seem to muddy the waters from time to time. What I recognize, as a police officer, is that we ended up finding new things in the Criminal Code all the time, and we could never figure out why they were going in there. But we were the enforcers of the law, not the creators of law.

So section 281 was created at some point in time, for whatever reason I don't know. It was created and the wording is quite specific, “not being the parent, guardian or person having the lawful care or charge of a person”. Well to me that just muddied the waters with regard to kidnapping. Kidnapping is quite clear—a person is taken against their will. So why section 281 was brought in and when it was brought in is probably something that someone in this room can answer better than I.

Kidnapping is kidnapping.

Noon

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

This is a not-unrelated issue, but it has to do with the differences between kidnapping and abduction.

Would the differences between kidnapping and abduction justify a mandatory minimum of five years in the case of kidnapping under the age of 16 years, and a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, with no mandatory minimum, in the case of an abduction of a person under the age of 16?

Noon

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Clearly, in my humble opinion, abduction was created to recognize the problems we have when couples separate and a child is taken by either parent and/or legal guardian against a court order that recognizes that one parent or the other has custody whether it be sole or joint. As a result of that, we need to be able to deal with that from the perspective of the Criminal Code.

What I don't understand is where section 281 came from, as I said before, because it seems to have just mirrored section 279 of the Criminal Code, except we don't want to call a spade a spade. When young children are taken by someone other than their parent, guardian, or the person who has legal authority over them, that is kidnapping. That is strictly what it is. It's not abduction; it's kidnapping.

Noon

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

If the purpose of your private member's bill is one of prevention, how would your measure, which is focused on punishment, achieve this, particularly in light of the evidence we have that mandatory minimums do not deter? I'm wondering what is the value-added dimension of your initiative in that regard. Is there any evidence that kidnapping sentences in the cases of underage victims have been light or otherwise inappropriate?

Noon

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Certainly what I have seen in my career as a police officer is that these are very rare occurrences, as we have seen with the Hebert trial dropped down to an abduction charge.

There are certain crimes within the Criminal Code and within our society that are just not acceptable, period. One would be murder. One, in my opinion, would be the kidnapping of a child. It's not acceptable, period. It's not about trying to make the person better, it's about sending a message to that person that what they've done is wrong and our society will not accept that.

I can only speak for myself. Whether it be my children or my grandchildren, certainly if someone were to take one of my grandchildren and it was a stranger, I would suggest to you that I wouldn't be looking to that person to get better. There has to be something wrong with a person who takes a child they do not know, against the child's will. But for the luck of God in the Hebert case, the child was returned, but historically that does not happen.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

Madam Findlay.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Wilks, thank you for being here today, and bringing this forward.

I wonder if, in your research, you had determined what other like-minded countries impose for kidnapping of children. Do you have some awareness of that?

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

I do. Certainly the United States has a minimum mandatory for kidnapping of a child. Their definition of child is different from ours. Their minimum mandatory is 20 years. They have had very good success with that conviction.

Most other countries that I am aware of have a maximum of whatever that may be. I didn't delve into what the average conviction is.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

I think that in the United States they have a history going back to the Lindbergh baby, which was when the laws changed there.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

That is correct.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

That baby did not get home.

In your career as an RCMP officer, before you became a member of Parliament, I believe you had occasion to deal with several families in the unfortunate position of being victims of Clifford Olson, Robert Pickton, and others. Unfortunately, I have to say that you and I, both being from B.C., we seem to have more than our share of these criminals in our midst.

Can you talk a bit about the impact on those families when you had to deal with them when they first realized their child was gone, and then the time trying to figure out what had happened or if they might be returned, and then finding out that in fact they weren't, I believe, in any of those cases?

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Certainly with respect to Robert Pickton, I can speak specifically about one of his victims, Angela Jardine. Angela was from Sparwood. Angela was a young girl who found her way to Vancouver and unfortunately found her way to the east side of Vancouver, and struggled for a number of years.

Her parents tried to do a lot of things for her, and tried to get her back. But I think most people in this room know that when you're struggling in life, sometimes you don't tend to listen to those who maybe you should be listening to, for whatever reason.

Angela went missing from the east side of Vancouver. Her parents were frantic to try to find her. No one seemed to know where she had gone and as a result of the investigation from the Pickton farm, she was found to be one of the victims of Robert Pickton.

I've had many dealings with the family with regard to that. To this day her mum and her sister are still very troubled with the fact that, even though Angela went down a road that a lot of us would probably not go down, they tried their best to try to bring her back but the fact of the matter is that they cannot bring her back now, even if they wanted to.

That's what I found with a lot of families, whether it was the Olson murders, or whether it was Pickton—you watch it certainly with Bernardo as well—for the people involved there is nothing left. As we speak this morning, the Tori Stafford case is going on and all those families have is a victim impact statement to the offender saying, “What do we do? We're lost. What do we do?”

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

I was struck by your comment about the Hebert case, being that it was in your community and that, of course, the person involved is from your community as well, so there perhaps will be a time when he will be back in that community. There's at least some comfort to the affected family and community in that they know that at least for a certain amount of time he will not be out on the streets. Do you see value in that?

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

It certainly gives value to a community to know that the person convicted of that crime will not be returning to the community for some period of time. It gives the community some time to start determining how they are going to react when that person returns, because I can guarantee you that in this case that this person will return. It's all he knows. He knows nothing else. He can't survive out of that area.

It will be interesting to see how the community reacts when he returns, because it's troublesome for a lot of parents. They don't understand.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

Mr. Scott.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Wilks, for coming today and also for sharing with us some of your own experiences.

I have to thank you for your years of service. I think it's impossible to underestimate the impact of what you see during the course of your career. It's clear that the impact it must have on you is part of what motivates you here today.

I have what I hope are two relatively quick questions, and then I'd like to share my time, if I may, with Monsieur Jacob.

First, I'll start from the perspective of having a little difficulty with piecemeal amendments to the Criminal Code, so I'm wondering whether or not you had an opportunity or tried to propose this for inclusion in Bill C-10 as part of a broader scheme. If not, or if so, why did the government not include this at the time?

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

No, I did not.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Okay. It didn't come up on your radar screen with the government as something to discuss at the time and try to build into that project?

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

No, it didn't. Bill C-10 had gone down the road far enough that the inclusion of this would have just muddied the waters, in my opinion. This was something that happened in September, and certainly Bill C-10 was well on its way at that point in time.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

September 2011, right? Okay. Thank you.

My second question is that I think partly in response to Mr. Cotler's question about the value-added and about, I think, asking you to articulate for us a bit more your principles of sentencing, or let's say, the key principle of sentencing that you embrace. You spoke about sending a message and then you also said that you would not be “looking to that person to get better”.

Do I understand by this that you mean it would be inappropriate in the kind of situation you're talking about—kidnapping of a minor under 16—for a rehabilitation element to creep into sentencing, and that because of the severity of the crime, it's part of what you want to make sure is not there?

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Certainly, rehabilitation is available to any offender, whether it be through the provincial or the federal jail system. Whether people choose to take their rehabilitation is one thing or another.... In the provincial system, it can be forced upon them. In the federal jails, it cannot.

But what I do recognize from my years of police work is that there's a propensity for people in that type of criminal activity to start increasing the severity of their criminal activity. Also, when you get to the point of kidnapping, I believe that you're at the point where.... What form of rehabilitation are we going to provide for someone who kidnaps a three-year-old child?

Because it's beyond the kidnapping, it's “what's the problem?” The kidnapping itself is something that I do not believe can be fixed. If you've gone to the point where you're going to take a two-year-old or three-year-old child with the intent of doing something more, I would suggest that you have some severe problems.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Thank you, Mr. Wilks.

Do we have more time?