Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today on Bill C-246, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual exploitation of children outside Canada).
I wish to recognize at the outset the generosity of the honourable member for Québec, who introduced this bill. We are dealing here with a situation involving to some extent the export of crime. Since our society does not tolerate this type of activity, which we want to prevent by passing this bill, some people will go to other countries to commit the acts in question.
My personal opinion is that this bill tries to prevent a certain form of imperialism.
This bill is characteristic of Quebec's and Canada's position in general regarding respect for children and people and it also reflects the fact that we cannot ignore the reality of such an activity, especially since as a society we are exporting it because we do not tolerate it on our own lands. There is at the moment a sort of silent acceptance, which must absolutely be dealt with.
The Government has already proposed in Bill C-27 measures comparable to the objectives of this bill. Its objective, I repeat is to amend sections 7 and 211 of the Criminal code so as to prohibit obtaining, for consideration, the sexual services of a person under the age of eighteen years outside of Canada; transporting people to common bawdy-houses outside Canada for the purpose of having sexual relations with persons under the age of eighteen years; and certain acts of procuring committed outside Canada in relation to persons under the age of eighteen years.
I wish to congratulate the member for Québec, who introduced this bill.
We can see that the government has finally decided to follow suit with Bill C-27. The two bills are quite similar on the principle but it appears that Bill C-27 needs to be reinforced because we are in an area where we have a responsibility to act, even if we are dealing with extraterritorial actions, since fundamental human rights are at stake. We are not discussing relations between corporations, as with the Helms-Burton act, we are discussing fundamental rights. It seems to us that the government bill, based on an interesting principle, similar to the one put forward by the member for Québec, also needs to be strengthened.
First of all, we must make it more specific in order to give it real legal authority to go after these people. As the bill now stands, a principle is stated, but we do not really have the means to prosecute. Furthermore, the wording should be changed to meet the needs in this regard. Let us take an example. The clause suggested in Bill C-246 states that it is about anyone who "takes, transports, directs, or offers to take, transport or direct, any other person to a common bawdy-house". These are very precise and concrete terms ensuring that every person implicated in such a criminal act may be prosecuted. They really allow for the control of such acts and show the people who could be tempted by sexual tourism that Canadians or Canadian residents cannot indulge in that kind of activity, under threat of penalty.
Now, another shortfall of the bill is precisely concerning the people targeted in it. Presently, only Canadian citizens and landed immigrants are targeted.
There are however people who live in Canada for a while and are not targeted by that kind of bill, although they may precisely be those who travel the most. I am thinking about refugees and asylum seekers. I think it would be in our interest to specify who is targeted in Bill C-27 to make sure that legal proceedings can be taken against any individual in such a position.
The bill introduced by the member for Québec contains another recommendation that is much more significant.
While the government bill treats this simply as aggravated assault, the member for Québec-I support her on this one and I invite all members to consider how wise her recommendation is-suggests that the sexual exploitation of children outside Canada be made a separate offence so that legal action could be
taken directly instead of more globally under a section of the Criminal Code dealing with several activities. It would be good to be more specific.
There is another more technical element. The government bill will make an exception for surgical procedures. According to the advice we received from doctors, it does not seem advisable to allow people to obtain, in a roundabout way, what is prohibited by law. In other words, managing to legally perform sexual mutilation as a result of a physician's broad authorization. We believe that right now nothing can justify such an exception and we think it should be removed.
Another thing, the bill provides that sexual mutilations would be allowed on a consenting adult. This seems somewhat nonsensical. Do we authorize adults to commit suicide or mutilate their own body in various ways? Why should it be allowed in this case, especially as people in a different cultural context may be subject to specific pressure? Such a thing is not desirable. This kind of action is no more acceptable when it involves an adult instead of a child, and we believe it is important for Bill C-27 to be improved in this respect.
In my view, this piece of legislation will have an impact abroad, outside Quebec and Canada, but also internally, because it reflects an important principle found in many other areas of human activity, namely the fact that we will not tolerate the export of criminal acts abroad because of the wealth of our society. Similarly, in the environmental sector, we cannot tolerate the export of economic activities that cause pollution because we do not want them at home.
In this area, this is also not acceptable, and what is proposed by the hon. member for Québec allows us to target a crime that the Quebec or Canadian society would not accept. They would not tolerate that people living in Quebec or Canada, citizens or landed immigrants in our country, or refugees or asylum seekers could commit such crimes abroad.
Therefore, the bill proposed by the hon. member for Québec is a step in the right direction. It even suggests to the government ways to improve the situation which we do not find in the government bill, and this is why I would ask unanimous consent to put this bill to a vote.