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House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Since no more members wish to speak and the motion was not selected as a votable item, the time provided for consideration-

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order please.

At the end of my speech, I introduced a motion requesting unanimous consent of the House to determine if the bill was votable.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent for this motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There is no unanimous consent of the House. Therefore, the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, in June I had the opportunity to ask the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women how the government intends to ensure that the special needs of women will be considered in the reform of the Canada pension plan. I am happy to be able to follow this issue up this evening because it is an extremely important one.

The pension needs of women are different from the pension needs of men. Several of my constituents have brought this to my attention on many occasions, but particularly during the time of the recent cross-country consultations led by my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North Centre.

I often have the opportunity when I am in my riding to meet with women, particularly elderly women who are living alone, to discuss with them the problems they have in meeting their needs and surviving in increasingly difficult circumstances in many cases.

When the CPP information paper was released, it was criticized for failing to include a gender analysis of the various options presented. The importance of pensions to women cannot be understated. The majority of the senior population is presently female, and this proportion is presently on the increase. Therefore the issue of women's economic independence and security in their later years will take on even more importance.

During the consultations on the CPP, women's groups strongly supported the CPP system saying that it has worked well for them and is a vital concern to them. My understanding is that the CPP offers a number of advantages for women not found in private sector pension plans. For that reason it seems to me that gender analysis reform to the CPP system is crucial.

When we reflect on the change in patterns of work and in the contribution that women today are making to the workforce and their ability to be flexible in that contribution, it is most important that we should concentrate on the needs of the pension system to

reflect both the needs for that new flexibility and for the needs that women will have as they increasingly become employed in the workforce.

That is why I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary to update the House on how this aspect of the reform process has progressed. During the CPP consultations, women's organizations advised the federal and provincial governments against reducing the number of dropout years, of deindexing pensions or raising the age of entitlement. They noted that these types of measures would impose a disproportionately onerous burden on women.

It was pointed out that any reform of survivor benefits should recognize that many women have low paying jobs. There were also some calls for a homemakers pension plan.

These points, it seems to me, all have merit. Can the parliamentary secretary comment on them?

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Beaches—Woodbine Ontario

Liberal

Maria Minna LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Rosedale for raising this important issue in the House. I too have been involved with this issue for some time now and have been very interested in it. I had some discussions in my own riding and across the city of Toronto on the issue.

While financial issues around the CPP are certainly of concern to all Canadians, our ultimate objective is of course to ensure the well-being of individuals in their retirement years.

We know how important the Canada pension plan is for women. Women on average live longer than men, earn only 70 per cent of a man's dollar and have less access than men do to private or employer sponsored pension plans. As a result, their retirement income is limited.

Particular features of the CPP such as the child rearing, drop out and survivor benefits provide recognition of the essential and invaluable but unpaid work contributions that women make to our society.

Women's full economic contribution must be recognized. Women are now the main breadwinners in 25 per cent of families and their income is increasingly important to all families. In addition to this paid work however, women continue to perform the majority of unpaid child care, elder care and household work; work that no society can do without.

As the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women stated in her original response, the government is aware that women and men have very different patterns of employment and earnings. For that reason Status of Women Canada with the Caledon Institute held a round table to specifically look at the gender implications of CPP reform. This round table was held as a part of the consultation process led by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre and the findings were conveyed to federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers who are responsible for the Canada pension plan.

This is part of the government's policy of undertaking gender based analysis as set out in the federal plan for gender equality. Our commitment to gender equality means equally valuing similarities and differences between women and men and the varying roles which they play.

The minister is very committed to ensuring that gender analysis is done and that it is considered and taken into account when the final results on the CPP are announced. I hope this helps the hon. member and I look forward to discussing the issue with him.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 14, 1996, I asked the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration a question concerning Philip Chrysafidis, a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board in Montreal. He was appointed by this Liberal government on February 24, 1994. His term of office comes to an end in February 1997.

In May 1996, five criminal charges were laid him. He was accused of the illegal harassment of a female hearing officer at the IRB and of her husband, also an employee of the IRB. A few days later on, Mr. Chrysafidis purportedly threatened the man with physical harm or even death. He is also accused of deliberately intercepting private communications. Finally, he was caught carrying a prohibited weapon.

Because of these accusations, Mr. Chrysafidis has been suspended since May 7, but he is still receiving his full salary of $86,000 a year. Therefore, he is being paid for not working. I wonder how long he will receive $86,000 a year. As you know, the trial could go on for months and even years. The accused will only appear before the court on September 30 for his preliminary hearing.

Given the substantial sum of money involved and the state of our public finance, I wonder why the chairman of the IRB did nothing to put an end to such abuse and also why the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is not acting in a more responsible way and demanding an administrative inquiry in this matter. All the more so since three employees of the board are involved in this case, whether as perpetrators or as victims of alleged acts.

When the accusations against Mr. Chrysafidis were made public, IRB officials refused to comment on this case. They explained it was more of a private case. The courts should then be left to do their job.

However, I think this embarrassing situation for the IRB may have the effect of staining its reputation. It is also damaging its

credibility. I believe this situation is damning and unfortunate enough for the minister to intervene in this case.

Certainly, the commissioner in question is presumed to be innocent. But the relevant authorities must make the administrative decisions that are necessary in this case. How long will this commissioner receive his full salary when he is not performing his duties?

Furthermore, I wish to mention that at least 11 complaints against commissioners have been processed or have been the subject of an inquiry since the complaint processing mechanism was created at the IRB in January 1995. It must also be noted that, in the past, 35 hearing officers had signed a petition criticizing commissioner Chrysafidis' behaviour.

I invite the minister to exercise more diligently her role as minister responsible for the IRB.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Beaches—Woodbine Ontario

Liberal

Maria Minna LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I must admit I find the persistence of the member for Bourassa in pursuing this question a little puzzling. He knows full well that this matter is currently before the courts and that it would be inappropriate for the minister to comment at this time.

The hon. member of the opposition has suggested that the minister should actively intervene and remove this individual from the Immigration and Refugee Board. As he well knows, the IRB is a quasi-judicial tribunal which operates at arm's length from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. It is important to maintain this arm's length relationship if we want to preserve both the impartiality and the perception of impartiality of IRB decisions.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration does not casually meddle in IRB affairs, particularly affairs concerning human resources. This is an area over which the board's chairperson,Ms. Mawani, has complete authority.

I would like to remind the hon. member that one of the fundamental principles of Canadian law is that someone is innocent until proven guilty.

At this point, this is all the minister can and is prepared to do in this case.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Colleagues, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m.

(The House adjourned at 6.55 p.m.)