Evidence of meeting #61 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sexual.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Spratt  Member, Former Director and Member of the Legislative Committee, Criminal Lawyers' Association
Gaylene Schellenberg  Staff Lawyer, Law Reform, Canadian Bar Association
Paul Calarco  Member, National Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association
Sheldon Kennedy  Lead Director, Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre
Sue O'Sullivan  Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
Daniel Therrien  Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Alain Fortier  President, Victimes d'agressions sexuelles au masculin
Frank Tremblay  Vice-President, Victimes d'agressions sexuelles au masculin
Stacey Hannem  Chair, Policy Review Committee, Canadian Criminal Justice Association

3:30 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

This will be out of the ordinary, ladies and gentlemen. Because we have a vote and the bells will ring at a quarter to four, I thought we'd start a few minutes early, since we have enough people here for that.

This is the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It is meeting number 61. We are dealing with the order of reference of Monday, November 24, on Bill C-26.

We have a number of witnesses with us. You've all been given a five-minute heads-up. That's what you're going to get. We're going to try to hear all of you, and then, unfortunately, the bells will ring and we'll have to go and vote, and that'll it be it for you for today. But committee members will be coming back here for about 4:30 to get started with the second panel, and we'll have a full round with the second panel.


3:30 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Chair, this afternoon we will be hearing four extremely important witnesses. And yet the time they were given to present their report has already been reduced to five minutes. After we go and vote, we should at least take the time needed to question them. Otherwise, we could simply have asked them to submit their briefs, which they have already had the kindness to provide, and read them. In that way, they would not have had to go to the trouble of coming here.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has studied a large number of bills, but as I was saying earlier, and as I said to my colleague the parliamentary secretary, I have the impression that for the first time we don't have a reasonable and sufficient period of time at our disposal to do the work that is expected of us.

These people are available to answer our questions. My colleague—I believe it was Mr. Wilks—said two weeks ago that this was important. We were willing to reduce the length of their presentations so as to have some time for questions and answers with them. However, we do not even have that time. If they stayed, we could make some progress in our work. We could hear witnesses again on Wednesday.

Our priority with regard to this file is to do serious work.

3:30 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Here's my suggested solution to that. We'll hear the presentations. I think that's only fair; you've done the presentations. You know we have a second hour. If you would like to stick around, as witnesses, you can be part of the question and answer section of the second hour.

How does that sound? It's not a great solution, but it at least gives you an opportunity.

3:30 p.m.


Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

The only other suggestion would be, Mr. Chair, to allow one round of questions for this panel, and then just reduce the number of rounds of questions for the second.

3:30 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

The more chatting we do, the less chance they get to give their presentations.

3:30 p.m.


Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Either option is fine with me.

3:30 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

The bells are going in 15 minutes, and they have four folks.

Instead of introducing each of you, I'm going to call on the Criminal Lawyers' Association to give the first presentation and you can introduce yourselves. Thank you.

February 16th, 2015 / 3:30 p.m.

Michael Spratt Member, Former Director and Member of the Legislative Committee, Criminal Lawyers' Association

My name is Michael Spratt, and I'm here representing the Criminal Lawyers' Association.

In the interest of brevity, I won't go through the opening spiel. I've been here before, and you can check past transcripts to find out who we are and what we do. To cut to the chase, I'd like to talk about one thing predominantly, and that's the use of mandatory minimum sentences. I also have some comments on the registry and on further limits of judicial discretion through the use of mandatory consecutive sentences, but I'll begin with the minimum sentence point.

You've heard a bit about minimum sentences. Mr. MacKay was here. He testified before you. He said, “...mandatory minimums, the short answer is that we can't do enough to protect vulnerable children.“

This is the message that's being sent, that minimum sentences and harsher sentences make us safer. You know that's not true. You've been told that before. You've been told that by me, and you've been told that by other experts. The evidence suggests quite the opposite—minimum sentences don't make communities safer. They don't deter the commission of offences. They impede rehabilitation. They are costly, and they can be unconstitutional.

I refer you to the case of R. v. S.S., 2014, O.J., No. 1887 on Quicklaw, 2014 ONCJ 184, the neutral cite. That case deals with some of the very offences contemplated in this bill. It deals with the minimum sentence of 90 days, which is being increased to six months under this bill. In that case, there was a perilously close finding of unconstitutionality. It seems the only reason it wasn't found to be unconstitutional was that a reasonable hypothetical wasn't put by the parties and was created by the court, and the court didn't see fit to rule on something that wasn't argued before it.

Over the last eight years you've heard evidence about minimum sentences. Your own legislative summary from the Library of Parliament speaks of mandatory minimum sentences. You've heard from Dr. William Marshall, Mr. Randall Fletcher, Dr. Stacey Hannem, Craig Jones and Julian Roberts. All these experts have come and talked about how minimum sentences don't deter, how minimum sentences can actually increase danger.

Anthony Doob, a pre-eminent expert from the University of Toronto testified that “mandatory minimum penalties of this kind do not deter crime”. On February 4, just last week, Steve Sullivan testified, not only speaking to the ineffectiveness of minimum sentences but also how they can make the situation worse.

I don't need to go on about the evidence. It's been before you. It appears the government isn't listening to that evidence. Minimum sentences don't deter crime, and they don't make us safer.

There are many better uses of money than for minimum sentences and mandatory incarceration. You heard from James Foord last week about CoSA. Programs like this, programs that can rehabilitate, reintegrate, and prevent crime from happening in the first place are a better use of money than limiting judicial discretion.

There are downsides to minimum sentences. They will increase the use of court time. They are a perverse incentive for those who are innocent to plead guilty. Ironically, they are a perverse incentive to those who are factually and obviously guilty to go to trial, wasting court time and subjecting victims to testifying in the court process. But that doesn't seem to have resonated over the last eight years. I don't expect it will this time.

What I think the committee should be aware of is this. In addition to the cruel and unusual argument under section 12 of the charter, this committee should be worried about section 7 of the charter, and that is arbitrariness. When we are told that minimum sentences and the raising of sentencing tariffs keep us safer, deter crime, and prevent crime, I'm going to suggest to this committee that there is a danger that section 7 will be engaged; that is, that legislation is being proposed, and there is no connection between the legislation and the purported aims of that legislation. In that respect, it's arbitrary. That's what I have to say about minimum sentences. That's what I've said before. That's what others will say again.

If the government wishes to proceed with minimum sentences and wishes to sell minimum sentences as mechanisms to deter crime and keep us safe, there's a thing in criminal law called “onus”. The party moving for a proposition should prove that it's true, should justify it with evidence, not rhetoric.

I would urge this committee to look for evidence and try to find evidence of the effectiveness of minimum sentences. I'd suggest that evidence has not been found in the last eight years, is not going to be found in my brief time here, and if you look hard, I don't think you're going to find it all.

I'll leave it at that. I have more to say.

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you. If you can hang around that would be great. There may be questions in the second hour.

From the Canadian Bar Association, the floor is yours.

3:35 p.m.

Gaylene Schellenberg Staff Lawyer, Law Reform, Canadian Bar Association

Hi. I'm Gaylene Schellenberg, a lawyer with the law reform directorate of the Canadian Bar Association. The CBA is a national association of over 36,000 members with the mandate of seeking improvement in the law and the administration of justice.

Our submission on Bill C-26 was prepared by our national criminal justice section, which represents a balance of crown and defence lawyers from across the country.

With me today is Mr. Paul Calarco, a member of the section, and a defence lawyer from Toronto.

3:35 p.m.

Paul Calarco Member, National Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association

Thank you.

In addition to being a practising defence lawyer in Toronto, I also have served as a part-time assistant crown attorney and a standing agent for the Attorney General of Canada, so the perspective I bring encompasses both defence and prosecution experience.

The CBA supports measures that enhance the safety of Canadians, particularly the most vulnerable members of our society. It is vital to use the correct measures, and this is especially important when we consider how best to protect children. We must avoid measures that exacerbate the problems of abuse. This is complex, and simple one-solution-for-everything approaches are often not appropriate.

I would like to address two main points in my remarks: first, the sexual offender registry; second, the use of mandatory minimum and consecutive sentences in certain situations.

There is little evidence to suggest that sexual offender registries, as they are presently constituted, prevent sexual assaults. This can be seen in both the reports of the Auditor General of Ontario and the John Howard Society, cited in our written submission.

This bill does not make the prevention of sexual exploitation any more likely. It's reporting requirements are unlikely to have any discernible effect on public safety, or will be unenforceable when they deal with matters outside our country. Requiring an offender to report that he or she has a driver's licence as provided will not protect anyone.

It is well known, and confirmed by the government's own statistics, that in 88% of sexual offences against children and youth, the perpetrator is known to the victim. An offender registry does nothing to prevent abuse by a relative. Similarly our submission quotes a senior member of the Ontario Provincial Police in an affidavit used before the Supreme Court of Canada noting that many sexual offences are crimes of opportunity. A registry will not prevent these incidents.

One of the most important ways to ensure a safe and just society is by rehabilitating offenders. Once rehabilitated, that person no longer presents a threat to the well-being of our society, and in this way the national or social interest and the interest of the rehabilitated offender are congruent. To address rehabilitation, prevent recidivism, and promote offender reintegration into society, offenders need treatment and counselling. This requires resources, but it is the most effective way to ensure the safety of the community. A simplistic approach of increased sentences will not do this.

The bill proposes a publicly searchable database be created, claiming it too will enhance public safety. A public database is more than likely to have the opposite effect, thus increasing danger to the vulnerable.

It is no answer to say that such a database will only deal with high-risk recidivists. We do not know how or if the government of the day intends to determine by regulation the meaning of this term, and prior testimony before this committee indicated that a determination of who was a high-risk offender may be left to individual police forces. This creates inconsistency and uncertainty.

Further, public access to such data is likely to drive offenders underground, away from police scrutiny, away from treatment, and away from supervision. As sex crimes are often crimes of opportunity, untreated offenders are more likely to repeat an offence creating more victims. This is entirely preventable. In addition, innocent parties have been mistaken for offenders when vigilantes wrongly suppose it is proper to take the law into their own hands. Nor can it be acceptable that self-styled avengers decide to become executioners. In our submission we cite several examples from the United States. There is no reason to believe this would not happen in Canada.

The second issue I want to address is the use of mandatory minimum sentences. Criminal sentences must be proportionate to both the offence and offender. This is a constitutional requirement. The courts of this country take offences against children very seriously, and it is a myth to say those who abuse children receive minimal sentences. It is also well established that mandatory minimum sentences are of little, if any, value in deterring crime.

Considering time, as my colleague from the Criminal Lawyers’ Association mentioned, sentences must be proportionate. If they are not, there will be constitutional litigation in order to deal with these things, which is costly, and the bill is constitutionally vulnerable on these grounds.

I would be pleased to answer questions when we reconvene.

3:40 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you, sir.

I want to first of all thank the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. Sue has offered to be a presenter in the next panel. We only had three and now we have four.

We'll now go to the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.

Mr. Kennedy, the floor is yours.

3:40 p.m.

Sheldon Kennedy Lead Director, Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre

Hi, and thanks for having me here today.

I'm Sheldon Kennedy with the Child Advocacy Centre. At the centre in Alberta we do all the sexual assault investigations in the city of Calgary and surrounding area. We've pulled together RCMP, the Calgary Police child abuse sex crimes unit, Alberta Health with four pediatricians and 15 psychiatrists, 35 child and family service workers, and we all work as one under one roof to investigate these crimes and to treat our young people to turn their lives around early.

One of the things I've learned is that the reality is if I look at my offender and many more of the victims that I've talked to as offenders, these individuals operate in our society because of society's ignorance and indifference, period. That's how they get away and that's how they operate within our country and within our communities. I think our best defence is to create awareness and confidence within the community of who these individuals are because one of the myths out there in society is that the people who hurt kids jump out from behind buildings and have masks on and so forth. In reality that's not the case. In our data that we've created at the CAC here in Calgary, we've been able to open the files of all the existing partners: health, child and family, police and crown, and so we've been able to paint the picture of the invisible damage of this crime.

I think that is one thing that our courts and systems don't really grasp. We talk about mental health, depression and so forth, but the reality is: what's the root cause? It's all about trauma-informed care. Can you believe in this country that our family physicians, our nurses, the majority of police officers, unless they specialize in this crime, don't have the training to deal with child abuse? At the Child Advocacy Centre, in 20 months, we've done 2,500 investigations in Calgary alone; 60% to 80% of those are sexual assaults; 93% of these children know their abuser; 47% of abusers are parents or caregivers; and 32% have experienced abuse in the past. The majority of the children are four to seven years old, so to think that this is only happening to older children is ridiculous.

I'd like to focus on some of the impacts. What are we really dealing with when children are abused? What's happening? What's the damage?

[Technical difficulty--Editor]

3:45 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Technology's great when it works.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the bells are ringing, and that means we have to go and vote. There's only one vote, though, so we'll be back around 4:30. If you could hang around, that would be great. We'll have a few more people make presentations, and then there will be a big discussion period. I've heard rumours that there might be a discussion about extending the meeting. We'll see what happens at that point.

With that, we'll suspend until we're back.

4:35 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

I'm going to call this meeting back to order. We are dealing with Bill C-26 here at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I want to thank those who hung around for 45 minutes or so for the voting, and we are off to our second panel.

I want to thank Ms. O'Sullivan for her kindness. She's the federal ombudsman for victims of crime and she offered to step down her time to start off this panel. So we'll do the panel—five minutes each for those who haven't spoken yet—and then we are going to a question and answer period. There has been an agreement amongst our colleagues here that if you're willing to stay till six o'clock, they're willing to stay till six o'clock to ask questions. We completely understand if you have flights or other things to go to, but if you're here, you may get asked the questions.

With that, we'll call on Ms. O'Sullivan from the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to start us off.

4:40 p.m.

Sue O'Sullivan Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Thank you very much. I think out of deference to everyone else, I'll skip some of the intro. You've heard from our office about what we do. I'll go right into the comments on the bill.

Bill C-26 seeks to make a number of changes to the Criminal Code and other legislation to address some issues related to sexual offences against children. We know that these changes include an increase from minimum to maximum, making it mandatory to impose consecutive sentences, increasing the reporting obligations, and creating a new national public database.

Over the years, we have had several victims contact our office expressing frustration and concern with issues regarding offenders who have committed sexual offences against children. As with all victims of crime, they have a need to be informed, considered, protected, and supported. We have heard from victims who are frustrated by the lack of meaningful information they are able to access about offenders being released into the community. We have also heard from victims who did not feel considered and protected at different stages of the criminal justice system, including at sentencing and in setting release conditions. As well, we have heard from victims about the need for supports throughout the entire criminal justice process, starting at the time of the crime, through the courts, and through to post-conviction and conditional release; and as you have heard from other witnesses before the committee, these needs can also be lifelong.

Bill C-26 seeks to make information available to victims through a publicly available database of information on high-risk child sex offenders. Our office has found that most communities across the country have processes in place related to public interest notifications for high-risk offenders. In some provinces, these notifications are posted on public websites. The proposed public database should provide victims and communities with more consistent access to information about high-risk child sex offenders.

Legislative changes to sentencing and to the sharing of information should also be supported by resources to assist victims in reporting and recovering from the crimes committed against them. As for sharing information between law enforcement officials, I support changes to the sex offender registry act that would allow police and the Canada Border Services Agency to share more information in combatting child victimization abroad.

Under Bill C-26, the minimum and maximum sentences for sexual offences against children would increase, and the sentences for multiple victims would need to be served consecutively. We have heard from victims who support consecutive sentencing because it acknowledges and recognizes the harm done to each victim. Although sentencing may be an important issue for some victims, alone that would not address the concerns and needs of victims. When having conversations about such sensitive issues, it is important to keep in mind that every victim's experience and needs are unique. Cases of child sexual assault are complex and often involve someone known to the victim.

I would like to emphasize the importance of having community resources and supports in place, not only for when a victim comes forward about abuse but also to deal with the lifelong and sometimes intergenerational trauma that can come from this type of victimization.

In closing, I would like to thank the committee for its consideration of this bill and the work in examining this important issue. I believe that Bill C-26 would provide a measure to better inform and consider the needs of victims of crime.

I thank you for your time and look forward to any questions you may have.

4:40 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you very much.

Our next presenter is the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Commissioner, the floor is yours.

4:40 p.m.

Daniel Therrien Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen members of Parliament.

With me today is Carman Baggaley, Senior Policy Analyst at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

My comments today will focus on the amendments proposed to the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, or SOIRA, and the creation of the High Risk Child Sex Offender Database.

While Canadian courts have recognized that privacy is a quasi-constitutional right, it is not an absolute right. In certain cases, it can be restricted to achieve other important societal goals, including enhancing public safety and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.

However, with any proposed incursions into privacy, we need to evaluate beforehand whether these incursions are necessary and likely to be effective; whether they are proportional to the benefit that may be derived; and whether there are other less privacy-intrusive measures that would achieve the same objective.

SOIRA received royal assent in 2004. The act imposes significant obligations on convicted sex offenders. These are obligations that are not imposed on other offenders who have completed their sentences. In previous appearances before parliamentary committees on this act, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has raised questions about the effectiveness of this registration scheme.

In 2009, we recommended a formal evaluation of the effectiveness of the legislation and the registry by an independent third party. To our knowledge, no publicly funded evaluation has been done. On the contrary, evaluations that have been done based on the experience in the United States suggest that there is little or no evidence that registration and notification laws are effective, either in terms of deterring sex offender recidivism or in reducing reported sex offences.

The high-risk child sex offender database act would establish a publicly accessible database that contains information about persons who have been convicted of sexual offences against children, and who pose a high risk of committing crimes of a sexual nature. Although this information would be limited to information that a police service or other public authority has made public—through existing provincial registries, for example—making it available on a national database would greatly expand the number of people who have access to this information. This, in our view, is a clear intrusion on privacy, which if justified, should be based on a proportionate and effective public safety objective.

Based on the research we have read, we at the OPC are concerned that the publicly accessible high-risk offender database proposal may not be a proportionate nor an effective response to the very real problem it is trying to address. This is in part because law enforcement agencies already have access to information about registered sex offenders through the national sex offender registry and other databases such as CPIC. How would the publicly available database increase the likelihood of arrest or reduce the risk of recidivism? We've not seen any evidence of such outcomes.

There is, however, research that supports the view that laws that reduce the privacy of sex offenders make rehabilitation and reintegration more difficult. Ultimately, this could increase the rate of recidivism.

A publicly accessible database also creates a risk of vigilantism, as recognized on provincial dangerous offender websites such as the one in place in Alberta, and increases the risk that fears of being attacked or harassed will drive offenders underground. There is evidence that similar databases in the United States have actually led to the killing of sex offenders in the community.

To be clear, we empathize with victims of sexual offenders and we understand the importance of the problem that this bill is attempting to address. However, we urge the committee to look carefully at the likely effectiveness of this proposal.

Thank you, and I will be pleased to answer questions.

4:45 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Very good. Thank you for that presentation.

Our next group of presenters are from Victimes d'aggressions sexuelles au masculin.

The floor is yours, Monsieur Fortier.

4:45 p.m.

Alain Fortier President, Victimes d'agressions sexuelles au masculin

Good afternoon.

Thank you for allowing us to testify before you today. My name is Alain Fortier. I am the president of VASAM and I am accompanied by Mr. Frank Tremblay, the vice-president. So as to respect the time I have been given, I will begin my presentation. Afterwards, Mr. Tremblay will continue.

VASAM is the only organization in Quebec that offers support to men who have been sexually assaulted. After less than a year of existence, we have already accomplished a great deal for male victims. We already have several hundred individual and corporate members.

It should be noted that even though we only work with male victims of sexual assault, we also cooperate with organizations that help female sexual assault victims.

The mission of the organization is to raise the awareness of the population and of political bodies regarding the sexual assaults that are committed against men during their childhood, and to encourage men of all ages to break out of their isolation and to regain control of their lives.

Regarding the rights of victims, our association reacts to any legislative change by working tirelessly to demand a reaffirmation and strengthening of the rights of victims.

We are very happy to have the opportunity today to share with you the reasons behind our unqualified support for Bill C-26. Among the provisions in the bill and the measures proposed, two of them were of particular interest to us.

The first are the longer minimum and maximum prison sentences for certain sexual offences committed against children.

The second is the obligation imposed on the convicted child sex offender who has been found guilty of offences against several children, and has received separate sentences, to serve them consecutively, that is to say one after the other.

Mr. Tremblay, I now yield the floor to you.

4:45 p.m.

Frank Tremblay Vice-President, Victimes d'agressions sexuelles au masculin

Thank you.

Good afternoon everyone.

Our unqualified support for Bill C-26 is not only ideological, it is also based on a series of painful personal experiences. Our objective is not to punish the abusers more severely, but to offer better protection to the victims, to see appropriate sentences imposed on child sexual predators, and to see provisions that will mean that they will really serve their sentences. Children who have been assaulted have to be given greater consideration and respect. The protection of children is both the spirit and the letter of Bill C-26. It is not simply a matter of months or years.

I would like to give you a personal account. Twenty- three years ago, the person who assaulted my colleague Alain Fortier was given a 90-day prison sentence. The person who assaulted me, who had abused 13 victims, was given a 3-year prison sentence. The case was appealed by the Crown, and the Appeal Court reversed the judgment unanimously and imposed a 5-year prison sentence.

At first glance, one may believe that it is good to see some evolution. People have understood that the sentences should vary according to the cases. My aggressor had assaulted 13 victims and was give a 5-year prison sentence. As for Mr. Fortier's aggressor, he received a 90-day sentence.

Things are not quite what they seem, because in the past 20 years, there was no evolution whatsoever. The devil is in the details. Let's go for a brief visit to hell, so to speak. As I already said, my abuser was given a 5-year sentence after assaulting 13 victims. He was released in March 2014, after having served only 26 months of his prison sentence. If you divide 26 months by 13, that is equivalent to two months of prison time per victim.

I launched a class action suit against my abuser and his organization. During the civil trial, he mentioned that he had assaulted me at least 80 times. In Canada, that is not how the justice system works, I know. However, in my head and heart of abused child, Raymond-Marie Lavoie, my sexual abuser, was given 60 days of detention for having imposed 80 nights of love on me. That is the sentence Raymond-Marie Lavoie received.

How have sentences evolved in the past 20 or 30 years? To my way of thinking, my abuser was given 60 days of prison for having imposed 80 nights of love on a child of 13. Do we want to keep things the way they are? Is that what Canadians want?

Bill C-26 would allow for a recognition of wrongs, in order to protect children. Our support for Bill C-26 and its reforms goes beyond the simple mathematical proportion between the sentences and the harm inflicted. It is based on the recognition of a disaster experienced by the victims during their childhood and the immense efforts these people have to make to free themselves.

Bill C-26 finally recognizes the harm inflicted on abused children by showing greater consideration when the motion is dealt with, when their abuser is being sentenced, and by ensuring better protection through the creation of a public database on child sex offenders.

I will conclude by saying that all of us still have an inner child. That is the case for all of us. However, when that child was violated when young, this makes the victim, male or female, a broken person.

VASAM was created to come to the assistance of these people who were destroyed when they were children. By passing Bill C-26, you will be telling society that you want to protect the children that are still within us, even if we have grown up.

Vote in favour of Bill C-26.

Thank you.

4:50 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you.

Thank you.

Our next presenter is from the Canadian Criminal Justice Association.

Welcome, and the floor is yours.

4:50 p.m.

Dr. Stacey Hannem Chair, Policy Review Committee, Canadian Criminal Justice Association

Thank you.

I'm Dr. Stacey Hannem. I'm the chair of the policy review committee for the Canadian Criminal Justice Association, and I'm also an associate professor of criminology from Wilfrid Laurier University. I do have some research background in released sex offenders and reintegration.

As criminal justice professionals, the members of the CCJA certainly are sympathetic to the public's desire to be protected from people who would commit acts of sexual aggression and exploitation. We've carefully read and considered the proposals within Bill C-26, and we want to highlight a few aspects of the bill that we have some concerns with.

The CCJA is on record many times as being opposed to the creation of mandatory minimum sentences. Of course there is a range of increases to the mandatory minimum sentences contained within this bill. I won't belabour the issue, I think my colleague Michael Spratt quite nicely covered the issues with mandatory minimum sentences.

However in particular in relation to this issue, we do want to highlight clause 7, which amends subsections 163.1(2) and (3) of the Criminal Code to remove the summary conviction option from the offences of creation of child pornography and the distribution of child pornography.

The issue that we see with this is that given the lack of clarity around our definitions of child pornography in a digital age, and given some of the cases coming out of the United States where children have indeed been charged with creating and distributing child pornography for taking photographs of themselves and sending these via text message or via other digital means to boyfriends, girlfriends, and peers, our concern with this clause is that any young person in that kind of grey scenario around child pornography would be subject to the mandatory minimum provisions of the indictable offence—the one-year mandatory minimum. Given the increasing prevalence of that kind of behaviour among young people and given the role of peer pressure, we would want to caution Parliament and the government against placing those kinds of restrictions on prosecutorial discretion by removing that summary conviction option.

The second issue I want to highlight concerns the increased maximum sentences. Across the board this bill raises the maximum sentences on summary convictions to two years less a day for a range of offences against children.

By setting that maximum at two years less a day, the offenders remain in provincial custody. The issue that we want to highlight around this is the fact that effective sex offender programming is not universally available in provincial systems across the country. Ontario has some quite good programs; Alberta has none. There is absolutely no treatment specifically for child sexual offending in the provincial system in Alberta, for example.

When you're considering these types of offences and you're thinking about this as an offence that is worth two years less a day, you might want to consider ensuring that the provinces have the capacity to effectively treat these kinds of offenders and to make those programs available across the country, both while in custody and also in our communities.

The third issue I want to talk about is around the issue of the publicly accessible high-risk child sex offender database. I'm going to preface these comments by telling you that the longitudinal research on sex offender registries coming out of the United States—we have no research on it in Canada—tells us that these registries are of limited use.

A study published in 2008 looked at the sexual offence rates during the 10 years prior to and the 11 years following the creation of the sex offender registry in New York state. It found that it had absolutely zero impact on arrest rates and charge rates for sexual offences. Of all people charged with sexual offences during that time period—10 years before, 11 years after—95.9% were first-time offenders. They would not have been on the registry anyway. Again, that suggests that this registry itself is of limited use.

When you make a registry like that public and you put that information into the public domain, it does have a range of unintended consequences. The first one I want to point to is lowered compliance. Ontario has a compliance rate with its sex offender registry between 95% and 97%. It's very effective in terms of compliance, whether or not you think it makes a difference in actual change.

The provinces that have public information available—Alberta and Manitoba—have considerably less effective compliance. They are at 84% and 88% respectively at the last available data. So assuming you think sex offender registries are a useful tool for police investigations, then you should be concerned with the implications of lowered compliance.

The second issue is the identification of victims. One of the things is that, if you take a look at the publicly available information from Manitoba in particular, you will see that in talking about the nature of the offence, it often identifies the child or the spouse of the offender as the victim, for example, which makes these people publicly identifiable. That is a problem.

The public nature also impedes reintegration. There's a range of issues we encounter around harassment of offenders and their inability to reintegrate effectively, and I would suggest to you that, if you actually care about reducing the risk to children, you would consider groups like Circles of Support and Accountability, which has a 70% effectiveness rate in reducing recidivism and is currently being defunded here in Ottawa. It's going to have to close while there are people coming out of prison wanting to have the support to reintegrate, wanting to be able to work with people to help create safer communities.

I would urge you to consider funding these kinds of programs with proven effectiveness, rather than funding longer sentences of incarceration.

Thank you.

5 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you, Doctor. Thank you for those presentations.

We are now going to an hour of questions and answers. Just before we do that, there is a budget that's on your table. It's for $8,800. Would somebody move that for me?

5 p.m.


Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

So moved.