Evidence of meeting #38 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 children.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Crystal Dunahee  President, Child Find British Columbia, As an Individual
Rodney B. Freeman  Woodstock Police Service
Michel Surprenant  Vice-President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Sure. I was just going to say the word a lawyer would use for that is “deterrence”. It helps to stop others in their tracks before they commit the act.

But thank you very much again for your attendance.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

I have Mr. Scott.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Boivin.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Madam Boivin.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Scott takes many forms today.

To continue on from Mr. Woodworth, and to quote Justice Major, who was here on Tuesday:

That would be the hope,

—when you have a minimum—

but experience shows that the severity of the crime seldom acts as a deterrent, because there's a philosophy that says the criminal doesn't believe he's going to be caught.

That's sometimes the problem.

I would like to ask the chief—I knew I'd get your attention—if you think Rafferty would have committed his crime had there been a five-year minimum. Do you think that would have stopped him?

11:55 a.m.

Woodstock Police Service

Chief Rodney B. Freeman

I don't think this would have stopped him, no. He is an absolute monster, and he is now away, hopefully for the rest of his life, where he will never, ever harm another child, as is his accomplice. Those two were fuelled by the Internet, by pornography. They were googling a lot of extremely harmful websites, and they were determined that they were going to take a child that day, and it happened to be Victoria.

May 17th, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

You see me coming. That's my problem, in the sense that I don't know if we're just giving us, as a society, a sense of comfort, and in a sense a sad sense of comfort. Because if we're sending the message to society that by doing this you can feel more secure and that your kids are now safe, there's a problem, because they're not. There are still predators out there. There are still sick people out there. By doing so sometimes I think we avoid taking the real bull by the horns and addressing the real problem. So that's one of my problems, because I don't, in my heart, even though I'd love the sentence to be even bigger, I say to myself that it will not make somebody stop doing that.

What I do get comfort from is not looking at the bottom and the minimum sentence but looking at the top. I review the jurisprudence and I try to see if there's a problem. Normally if we try to fix something, it's because there is a problem. Otherwise, I don't know what we're doing. I'm looking, and I don't see a problem because I don't see the court being lenient with that type of infraction.

I don't know if the witnesses have read section 279 as it is. The bill is trying to amend section 279. When you read that section.... Being a lawyer, I can tell you that it's mind-boggling. You have section 279 talking about kidnapping, and as Judge Major was saying, it's for commercial purposes. It's kidnapping with intent. So when you say there's nothing attached to it, to be guilty of section 279 there always needs to be something attached to it. So you can't just say it's simple. They kidnapped, and thank God, the police arrived fast enough, grabbed the kid, and so on. They still could be guilty of section 279 if there was intent. We'd have to see what the motivation was, and it would be hard to prove that. But then it might not be a section 279 but another infraction.

Then you go to all the others in that section, which are hard to understand. You have section 280, which is on abduction of a person under 16, and then you have a maximum that is less than life imprisonment. So when you put all these together, I don't know what putting a five-year minimum on section 279—and the private member's bill says it's for that specific section, and we can't change what the private member's bill is saying—will add to the situations we are looking at every day, all the dramatic, specific cases that we hear about, or your case, Mr. Surprenant, which has moved the whole province.

The entire province went through it with you, clearly not in the same way, however. As I said earlier, we can't know what it was like for you to live through a parent's worst nightmare or imagine what Ms. Dunahee went through. But, as elected representatives, as members of Parliament, we must stop trying to convince society that including a few words in the law is going to solve the problem, when we aren't solving a thing, in my opinion.

Noon

Vice-President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared

Michel Surprenant

That is how you see it.

If your primary objective is protecting children, you will understand that a minimum is really the way to go. As already pointed out, judges appreciate that it is just a minimum. Another approach is necessary.

Noon

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Could you give us an example of a child abduction case in which a minimum sentence was used?

Noon

Vice-President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared

Michel Surprenant

It sounds like you are more concerned about the sexual predator's ability to reoffend.

Noon

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Not at all, I am not referring to that. Quite the opposite, I am saying harsher sentences are imposed.

Noon

Vice-President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared

Michel Surprenant

That is how it sounds to me, as the father of a victim.

Noon

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Perhaps you misunderstood me. I said more than the minimum is being imposed.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Ms. Boivin, your time is up.

Noon

Vice-President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared

Michel Surprenant

I don't know why you're dwelling on this. What we are asking for is a minimum, not—

Noon

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

I am not trying to be stubborn with him.

Noon

Vice-President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared

Michel Surprenant

Neither am I.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Mr. Goguen.

Noon

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Surprenant, you said that pedophilia could not be cured.

I'll ask the chief to comment on this too.

Actually, once they are released, they should be monitored. My understanding is that, under the current Criminal Code, the maximum probation period during which monitoring takes place is three years.

Do you think the Criminal Code should be amended as it relates to sexual offences against children so the probation period is longer?

I don't know whether you got that, Chief. I was just saying, basically, that pedophilia is probably not curable. Under the Criminal Code, the maximum probation period after being freed is three years.

Should the Criminal Code be extended to give a longer probation period in the case of sexual offenders against children?

My question is for Mr. Surprenant, first.

12:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared

Michel Surprenant

Obviously, three years is not long enough. When you know a pedophile can't be cured, three years is nothing.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

So we should extend that period, perhaps amend the Criminal Code to provide for a longer monitoring period. Should it be for their entire life?

12:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared

Michel Surprenant

Right now, there are provisions whereby a sexual predator can be deemed a long-term offender who is subject to supervision for a minimum of 10 years.

In the U.S., for instance, after the second or third offence, the predator is castrated or sent to prison for life. I would say there is still a ways to go between that extreme sentence and ours.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Chief?

12:05 p.m.

Woodstock Police Service

Chief Rodney B. Freeman

I'd like to comment that we could do a lot better in a lot of areas of the Criminal Code. I think that's why Canadians are looking at our system and sometimes viewing it as too weak. I think there are improvements we can make.

In the case of the kidnapping of a child under 16 years of age by a stranger, I believe that by establishing a five-year minimum we are making a statement. We are drawing a line in the sand saying that our children are our most vulnerable citizens, and should you kidnap one of them under 16 years of age, this is the minimum you're going to look at.

Right now, we're standing with our hands in our pockets and we're accepting—let's go way out there—that somebody could get probation for kidnapping a child under 16. Now that's way out there, and I appreciate that. But I think, first of all, that this member's bill has created this discussion, which I think is very helpful—I know it's helpful in our community—but I think that we as the lawmakers and the law enforcement community have to draw that line in the sand and say, if you do this, you're looking at five years minimum.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Okay.

Do I have any time left?