Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today in support of the motion of my colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley. It is unfortunate, in fact an abysmal comment on Canadian society, that we require this kind of legislation. However, I am heartened by it and am honoured to second the motion.
Under current law, a sex offender cannot be detained beyond a jail sentence. We may ensure their stay beyond their statutory release date only if a psychiatrist signs a certificate saying that the inmate suffers from a mental disorder that would likely result in serious injury to others.
The motion before us today provides the point of difference that Reform brings to the debate. Rather than attempt analysis at the end of a sentence, an offender should be subject to analysis by a psychiatrist before sentencing and then, if need be, deemed a dangerous offender. This supports reasoned argument to keep incarcerated those who pose a threat to society.
This is exactly the kind of legislation that this country needs. This issue should be non-partisan. I believe all of us in this House want to safeguard the rights of victims and, in this instance, the rights of victims of sex offences.
Let us not forget that the law of the land should not only safeguard those who already have been victimized, but the law should also endeavour to protect us from further victimization by those who demonstrate a dangerous propensity to commit sex offences.
Currently, we sit in the House listening to a great deal, possibly too much debate on national unity, when under our noses other important problems need to be addressed. We can do something positive here. Instead of splitting apart, instead of limiting debate on issues of importance, we can join together today on an issue that concerns us all. I urge all of my colleagues in the House to support this important motion.
The motion we are debating today specifically addresses the issue of protecting society from sexual predators, people who are driven to inflict harm on women and children in our society. Sexual predators are people like Clifford Olson, like Paul Bernardo. They prey on the weak and vulnerable and they enjoy it. They have been psychologically profiled as deviants who repeat their crimes and even enjoy them. These are the people who will be affected by this motion.
By passing this motion we will be saying that yes, we believe that we have a moral obligation as parliamentarians to protect society from those who seek to prey on its weak and vulnerable; yes, we believe that for the safety of society certain offenders should be required to undergo psychological evaluation and under certain circumstances should be deemed to be dangerous offenders.
This allows us the freedom and opportunity to keep those individuals in prison, those who pose an unacceptable threat to society.
In this instance, to some extent we are talking about locking the door and throwing away the key. That statement unto itself may sound unduly harsh; however, when it is rephrased it may become more palatable and perhaps better understood. Does anyone here believe that someone like Clifford Olson or Paul Bernardo should ever be allowed to walk the streets again? I do not think so. It would take a tremendous amount of convincing to dissuade me of this opinion.
The criminal must have served many years in prison. Treatment must have been completed and demonstrated to have had a positive effect. Remorse must be clearly demonstrated. Compensation of some kind would have to have been made to the victims of the crime by the criminal. Then and only then would I even entertain the notion of allowing the individual the opportunity to undergo further psychological assessment to determine the possibility of recidivism. This is not an issue of being harsh; this is a basic human issue about protecting the most vulnerable.
Protection of society will not be accomplished solely by the provision in the motion under debate today, but it does go a long way. Clearly, the preference would be to treat sexual offenders and to cure them of their illness. However, when this effort has failed we have a moral obligation to protect society. What we are debating today is whether the House sees this moral obligation; whether the House feels this moral obligation so strongly that it will make the moral obligation a legal obligation.
Some may ask why we need this legislation. Allow me through the use of an anecdote to demonstrate why this kind of legislation is necessary. There are times when my colleagues opposite are critical when we cite real life stories. However, unfortunately, they abound. They do represent a body of anecdotal evidence which cannot be ignored. If we can introduce legislation at little or no cost which will inconvenience few in society and by doing so save lives or prevent the commission of crimes, then we must commit to that effort. On that note, allow me to share with the House a sad story.
On November 18, 1984 Wray Budreo became a free man and every parent's nightmare. For days his face had been plastered on newspapers throughout southern Ontario. Budreo had a 32-year history of child molesting, including 22 convictions for sex offences. However, because he had served his full six-year term, there would be no parole or probation, no restrictions on his movements, no conditions for mandatory treatment. He was bundled into the trunk of a police car and spirited past the protesters who awaited him outside Kingston Penitentiary. I do not know if this man has reoffended. I pray that he has not. What concerns me greatly is that a known sex offender who was expected to reoffend was released from one of our jails.
I hear a familiar refrain all too often from people who doubt their own ability to shield their children from sexual abuse, especially without being overly paranoid or obsessive. We must first know some of the facts.
Not every child is equally at risk. Offenders target especially vulnerable children: lonely kids, those with disabilities or who have difficulty communicating, youngsters with absent dads who may be looking for a father figure, and those whose behavioural problems make it unlikely they will ever be believed if they do speak up.
Of course, the biggest risk factor is contact with a potential abuser. Here the facts contrast with the headlines. The dangerous stranger is the exception rather than the rule. A 1992 Statistics Canada survey found that in cases of child sexual assault, 48 per cent of the abusers were a parent or family member. Another 43 per cent astoundingly were friends or acquaintances. Only 5 per cent were strangers.
Whoever the offender, the offence is clear. It is always illegal for an adult to engage in sexual contact with a child under the age of 14. It is also illegal for an adult who is in a position of trust or autonomy to engage in sexual contact with a young person under the age of 18. The law recognizes what adults know. Children can be manipulated especially by the people they trust. Whether they say yes does not matter because the adult is the one who must say no.
There are no national statistics on the number of children molested every year but whatever the figure, it is too high. It can only be reduced one child at a time. That means we must make an effort to deal with potential abusers by ensuring that dangerous, repeat sexual offenders remain in a place where they cannot threaten our children or society as a whole.
Even the term "potential abusers" is quite misleading in this context because we are referring to people who have already been convicted of a criminal offence but who we strongly suspect will have the potential to reoffend. Suggesting that dangerous offenders of this kind are only potential abusers gives them too much credit.
An important component of this debate revolves around the issue of our ability to rehabilitate the convicted sex offender. One of the reasons for this legislation is the widespread disagreement about the success or even the possibility of rehabilitating a sexual offender.
Two centuries after the birth of modern psychiatry there are numerous treatments for sex offenders but as yet no consensus on the results of such treatments. A forensic psychologist at the Oak Ridge Facility for the Criminally Insane in Penetanguishene,
Ontario states: "We do not seem to be having much of an impact on sex offenders".
What are the costs to society? An argument is made that the annual cost to supervise an offender while on parole is only $9,400 whereas the cost of incarceration for a year is reported to be close to $70,000. Simply put, I believe there are times when social protection is worth the price. This may just be an instance where we have to swallow the costs. If it means saving 22 people from being victimized by a man like Wray Budreo then $70,000 a year is worth it.
Canada spends about $11 million per year on dozens of programs for sex offenders. About 5,000 of the 23,000 convicts in the federal corrections system have sex crimes on their record. The government proudly points to the statistics that only 6 per cent of sex offenders repeat their crimes within three years of their release. However, researchers who study sex offenders say that the recidivism rate jumps to about 50 per cent when the criminals are tracked over a decade. It is always the part that is left out that is the most startling.
There is little evidence, or at least there is lots of contradictory evidence, that therapy reduces recidivism. I am concerned by this contradiction. Until we are more certain of treatments that will reduce recidivism, I am uncomfortable in allowing potential predators back on the streets.
Belatedly, it is important that those who commit sexual offences be categorized as to whether or not they are psychopaths. Experts agree that the recidivism rate for psychopaths is triple that of non-psychopaths.
In conclusion, let me reaffirm my very strong support for this motion. I believe that if we could encourage the justice minister and the government to pass this motion, we would go a giant step toward making our country a safer one in which to live.