I want to comment on a concern raised by a member of the committee earlier. He said he was worried about the message a minimum sentence sends judges.
I want to reassure the member that when a judge sees a minimum penalty for any offence, the judge understands full well that Parliament intends that to be a minimum; that is to say, it is intended for the case of that offence which is least culpable. A judge knows full well that, as the degree of culpability for that offence increases, the penalty ought also to increase. So judges do know that a minimum penalty is exactly that—it's for the least culpable instance of such a case—and that increases are warranted thereafter.
Ms. Dunahee, I would like to direct some questions to you. I will begin by thanking all of the witnesses, by the way, but particularly you, because the pain in which your circumstances have left you is quite apparent. I know the courage that it takes to be here, and I know that your intentions in attending here are to assist all of us in understanding the point of view of the victim, because clearly the children who are taken are not the only victims in such cases. So I think it's important for us to ask you to do your best to put across for the members of the committee that point of view, the point of view of a victim.
What I know about your case is that your son, Michael, was taken when he was four years old. He was not found despite the fact that there was, as I understand it, one of the largest police investigations in Canadian history; despite the fact, I understand, that some 11,000 tips have been received by the police; despite the fact that this was well reported in the media across Canada and in the United States; and despite the fact that there was a $100,000 reward offered. Nonetheless, the police have not been able to make progress in your case.
I also understand that you have, yourself, been a leading advocate for missing children issues, and that in 2002 you lent your voice to support the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their calls to introduce an AMBER alert system in British Columbia. These are examples of how your terrible circumstances have been turned to good use.
I don't even know when it was that your son was lost, so perhaps you could start by telling us how long you have suffered with this tragedy and give the members of this committee some insight into why it is, from your experience, that the law we're considering needs to be looked at so seriously.