Mr. Speaker, before question period I was expressing my concerns over the practice of female genital mutilation.
I know that in Somalia and other countries the practice meets religious standards or preserves a sense of identity to their communities or it is done to preserve virginity and family honour. I think it is time that countries, including Canada, step in and protect these children from being assaulted and abused in the name of culturally acceptable practices.
The UN has been asked to put a stop to child labour and child abuse. It is therefore absolutely imperative for the UN to put a stop to this most savage abuse of children.
I urge the Government of Canada to take the lead on this issue by initiating talks with those countries which would be supportive of UN action in this regard.
It is clear that Canada should first address that kind of situation in this country and urge other countries to address the problem there. We must take every measure possible to protect children in this country and throughout the world.
I am therefore fully supportive of the section of Bill C-27 which makes it an offence for a Canadian citizen to obtain paid sexual services from children abroad or to engage in activities associated with child prostitution when they are out of the country. Of course I object strenuously to that kind of thing occurring in this country as well.
I would, however, be remiss if I did not question the effectiveness of this Canadian measure in eliminating child prostitution throughout the world. While it may bring Canadian citizens to justice in very limited cases, it will not stop citizens of other countries from engaging in sexual relations with children.
The Canadian Bar Association as well as a number of Canadian lawyers, including University of Toronto law professor Alan Mewett, criminal lawyer Douglas Usher and Windsor based criminal lawyer Michael Gordner, have all said that although Bill C-27 is an admirable statement of principle, it would be nearly impossible to enforce. That is my greatest concern about this bill. It sounds good, it looks good, but is it going to be enforceable?
I agree with these lawyers that it will be nearly impossible to enforce this portion of Bill C-27. The justice minister and his government must recognize this fact. One can therefore surmise that the Liberals have imposed this law in an attempt to create the impression that they are doing something about the sexual exploitation of children. I think it is a false pretence.
Alan Young, a criminal law professor at Osgoode Hall, said: "We have seen this before with Parliament enacting a law with little teeth. It has shown a good intent but it is just not an enforceable law. Think about it. How could it be? How are Canadian authorities going to become informed about these infractions? Any extraterritorial law is going to be fraught with political infractions and be near impossible to enforce. Look at what has happened with the war crimes prosecution. Ten years after the fact and there still has not been a conviction. It is embarrassing".
Canada is the 12th country to criminalize child sexual abuses committed by citizens overseas. Last summer representatives to the world congress against the commercial sexual exploitation of children urged governments to levy strong criminal sanctions such as those proposed by Canada in Bill C-37. Governments were also urged to promote strong co-operation between states and societies to prevent children from entering the sex trade and to mobilize nations around the world to help countries eliminate the sexual exploitation of children.
This action is absolutely imperative and in its absence Canada will do little if anything to eradicate child sex tourism. I would like to point out that the greatest culprits of child sex are not tourists or foreigners, particularly in countries such as Thailand where 95 per cent of child prostitution customers are domestic inhabitants. Foreign pedophiles account for a very small percentage.
What countries such as Thailand need to do is rigorously enforce their laws. Currently this is not being done. Perhaps to be more effective in combating the sexual exploitation of children, Canada could provide police training to countries such as Thailand to make it easier to catch and punish domestic sex offenders within their own country.
However, I firmly believe that before the federal government concentrates any more efforts abroad it should deal with the growing problem of child prostitution and child pornography in this country. It should establish a child sex registry, something Reform has been urging since 1993. I also suggest the government support local police efforts to inform people when a pedophile is released into their community.
It is unfortunate that the Liberal dominated justice committee did not support my colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley in her attempt to have child sex offenders deemed dangerous offenders and thus detained until being evaluated as no longer being a threat by at least two psychiatrists.
I support the portion of Bill C-27 that imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment for persons found guilty of profiting from juvenile prostitution. I have some concerns regarding the effectiveness of imposing only a five year minimum sentence. Pimping is a serious offence and as such should carry a severe penalty.
Under section 212(4) of the Criminal Code obtaining the sexual service of a person under the age of 18 is an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. Bill C-27 alters this section of the code by adding that it is an offence to obtain sexual services of persons believed to be under the age of 18 years. I have great difficulty with this portion of the bill. The justice minister is asking the crown to prove what a person may or may not have believed at a specific moment. How can this be done?
Is this another law that looks good but cannot be enforced? Is this simply another dumb law? Is it another stupid law like Bill C-41, which allows convicted rapists to walk free? Is this another example of the kind of legislation that comes out of an ivory tower but cannot be properly and adequately enforced by our justice system? How can you prove something is believed, that someone believed or did not believe something? How can people's thoughts be on trial when it is impossible to establish those thoughts?
This is precisely what the justice minister plans on doing under this section of the bill. Witnesses dealt with this particular portion of the bill and expressed concerns about the ability of the justice system to enforce it. They dealt with what the purpose of this was, to allow the police to use undercover operatives in sting operations; in other words, a woman peace officer poses as a prostitute and when she is approached by a john she says she is under 18.
As was pointed out in testimony and by others I have spoken to outside the committee room, how is a conviction going to be registered when the accused only has to say "she may have said that she was under 18 but it was obvious to me that she was older". Here we have a situation where the accused can say he thought she was older. In fact she would be older because the police would not be using anyone under the age of 18 in a sting operation.
How are we going to enforce this part of the bill? It looks good, it sounds good but how are we going to use it? Is it a practical law? I say it is not.
The sex trade in this country is a booming industry in which children are a hot commodity. Child sex consumers demand young flesh, and violent parasites, the pimps, happily supply that demand. This is an absolutely deplorable situation. The demand for child prostitutes will not go away as long as child sex consumers know their risk of arrest is minimal and if caught the penalty is only a maximum of five years.
According to the B.C. attorney general's office only eight B.C. men have been charged for buying sex from a juvenile since 1988. My goodness, that is close to nine years and less than one conviction a year. What is happening in that province? Why is that the case?
By contrast, 215 pimping charges were laid between 1988 and 1993. Sexually exploited children deserve protection in the Criminal Code with all other children who are victims of sexual predators. Whether they are sexually abused on the street instead of in their homes or schools, the penalty should be the same.
All children, especially those who are products of abusive and dysfunctional families who have forced them to retreat to the streets where they are further abused, deserve equal protection under the law.
We have today child molesters, people who have had sex with children, who are walking free because of conditional sentencing. Here we have an example of the government doing something with its left hand and exactly the opposite with its right. It is passing a bill that pretends to get tough on those who would sexually abuse a child or who would have sex with a child under the age of 18. Yet it passes laws that allow those people to walk the street after conviction, to walk free. What kind of a government is this? How do we make sense of this kind of a bill? How do we make sense of the overall legislative agenda of this government? It is impossible to do so.
When we ask the justice minister to do something about Bill C-41 and the conditional sentencing we heard what he said today and all of last week, that he is not prepared to move. He is not prepared to protect the children and the women who are abused and raped. These individuals are now walking the street free. It is confusing and it is unbelievable that the justice minister would bring in laws that conflict directly with other pieces of legislation that he puts forward designed to protect members of society and to protect victims of crime.
If we ever hope to reduce and eventually eliminate juvenile prostitution, we must address the reasons why children are turning to the streets where they are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
Despite the justice minister's admission in the fall of 1995 that he had no money for crime prevention, preventive crime measures must be implemented, particularly in relation to juvenile prostitution and young offenders. Those children who turn to the streets and a life of crime must be given an alternate safe haven where they are given some hope and assistance to have a positive and productive future.
The government now says, after 30 years of overtaxing and overspending, having borrowed $600 billion, and having increased taxes to the point where 50 cents of every dollar that a person earns goes to one of the three levels of government, that we have child poverty where one child in every five lives in poverty. It says that the root cause, at least in some cases, of poverty is that the families are becoming dysfunctional and the children are going to the streets and entering the prostitution racket.
The policies of the government have led to that. When the government takes 50 cents of every dollar out of the pocket of every wage earner and the people who create the wealth in this country, what can be expected other than poverty? From poverty flows some of these very negative aspects such as child prostitution. The government's own policies are coming home to roost. It is now trying to fight it with laws that have such holes in them they are unenforceable in some areas.
Finally, I would like to briefly touch on the section of Bill C-27 regarding harassment. We are all aware of the growing problem of domestic violence and the need for the section on criminal harassment that is outlined in the bill. We need more legislation and more preventive measures in relation to domestic violence, including providing the police with more power to investigate and prosecute people who abuse their spouses. What we do not need is a law that allows rapists to walk free after they have been convicted. What kind of a message does that send?
Bill C-27 has some good aspects but it is completely destroyed by the way the courts are using conditional sentencing granted by this justice minister who will not move to remedy that.
Bill C-17 deals with taking care of children, dealing with domestic abuse, rapes, assaults and so on, yet too many cases where violent offenders against women and children are walking free. What kind of a message is that to send to the people? It is a confusing message and an unbelievable message that this country could bungle this in the way it has.
If the justice minister thinks that Bill C-27 and his gun registration legislation are the only measures needed to combat domestic violence he is wrong. Firearms registration will not eliminate or decrease this form of violence. This fact was evident in the recent shooting death of 10 members of a Vernon, B.C. family by an estranged and distraught spouse. Not only did the police in that case not follow a 1993 government policy to investigate cases of domestic violence, including those cases where there is no co-operation by the victim, they issued a gun permit to a person who had allegations of violence and abuse launched against him.
I would like to quote an article in the Globe and Mail dated April 10, 1996 which stated: ``The mass killing of 10 people last weekend in Vernon, B.C. has revealed fatal flaws and everyday limitations to Canada's much vaunted gun control laws. The two handguns used by Mark Chalal in the killings were acquired legally because there were not enough police officers, enough public funding and enough political pressure to pursue telltale doubts that he might have been dangerous''.
That says it all about the vaunted gun control bill that somehow is going to make firearms safer simply because they are registered. Of course the government has never been able to explain to us or offer any evidence at all on how the registering of a rifle or shotgun is going to reduce the criminal use of firearms. However, we plough on spending hundreds of millions of dollars in order to do so while at the same time creating laws that allow rapists and violent offenders to walk free.
I reiterate my opening statement. We support this bill, although we have some reservation about its effectiveness in eliminating juvenile prostitution, domestic violence and female genital mutilation. I would be remiss if I did not briefly refer to what took place on Monday outside these chambers. The mother and grandmother of murdered teen Sylvain Leduc gathered supporters on the steps of Parliament Hill to protest the Liberal government's lax treatment of young offenders and to protest the justice minister's refusal to listen to the people of Canada and implement effective measures to combat youth crime.
It is no secret that for over a year I have publicly questioned the commitment of the justice minister and the Liberal dominated standing committee to effectively change the 13-year-old Young Offenders Act.
As this session of Parliament quickly comes to an end with the threat of a spring election, my earlier observations and scepticism unfortunately I think will be validated. It is indeed unfortunate that the government has failed during its three and a half year mandate to improve public safety and to do anything to make victims rights a priority.
I would like to commend my colleague from Fraser Valley West for his tremendous efforts in the area of victims rights. It was the Reform member's initiative and tenacity which forced a reluctant justice minister to have my colleague's victims bill of rights reviewed in committee. It was shocking and disgusting to hear him in question period today where he suggested that we do not really need a victims bill of rights because the guiding principles are already in the Criminal Code and other areas to guide the courts, the crown prosecutors, defence counsel and the police. It is just amazing the contradictions that we hear from the government.
We all know the minister's back is against the wall on this issue. We all know this is nothing more than a futile attempt to deflect criticism for a disastrous bungling of victim's right to be heard. He apparently embraced the bill of rights concept and yet today seems to have put a kibosh on it. It is very confusing when the justice minister moves in fits and starts.
In Bill C-41 the minister granted victims the automatic right to make victim impact statements. Victims rejoiced in this victory. However, the victims later were shocked to learn what the minister giveth the minister taketh away. In Bill C-45 the minister betrayed victims. He stole from them their hard won victory. He denied them their unconditional right to provide impact statements and in doing
so, he added to a misery they have endured since their children were so brutally ripped from their lives.
What happened? We had to piggy back an amendment to Bill C-45 on to Bill C-17 that passed last week in order to rectify the mistake. It was just another bungled job by the Department of Justice, led by the justice minister. That amendment had to be brought in with the unanimous consent of the House in order to reinstate what the victims had fought so hard and achieved in Bill C-41, which was their automatic right without the consent of the judge to make an impact statement at hearings.
Let us look at some of the areas under the jurisdiction of the justice minister, such as section 745 of the Criminal Code. That section allows first degree murderers, after 15 years, to apply for early parole. Not only that, they are allowed to take their victims through the horror and the terror and the pain one more time after 15 years.
Do the families of victims not deserve a degree of peace? When will they be able to put the horror behind them? It has not died away after 15 years and after 15 years it is harrowed up again. Not only that, if the applicant is unsuccessful he can apply again, and again and again, depending on what the jury or the judge has to say. They do not have another period of 15 years. They could be looking at the same kind of situation, having to appear and make an impact statement to keep the murderers of their children from walking the streets, in two years, three years, four years or five years. On and on it will go. Surely these victims have a right to a degree of peace of mind. That is being denied them by the justice minister and his department. It is not right and it is not fair.
The emphasis by Liberal governments over the last three decades has been not on the victims and the protection of society, but on the offenders. The whole idea and philosophy is an attempt to rehabilitate the offenders.
There is something to consider about these conditional releases that are now occurring. What is a fair and just penalty for the rapist who is walking free in B.C.? Even if there was a guarantee that he would never offend again, what is a fair and just penalty for the horrible act which that single mother had to endure for an hour and a half? I ask the justice minister and I ask the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister: What is a fair and just penalty? Is it to walk free? That is what is happening.
We pass laws in this place which tell the courts what to do, and yet the justice minister will not amend the bill to tell the courts that they must not use conditional sentencing for those kinds of horrible, heinous crimes.
We have been pounding away at the justice minister, making his life miserable over the last week because we are supposed to stand on guard for the interests of the people of Canada. If we do not, who will stand on guard for the victims? The justice minister? Ask the victims of the violent offenders who are now walking free because of his law.
We are only asking him to make an amendment which would exempt violent offenders not only from conditional sentencing, but also from the alternative measures contained in Bill C-41. Under alternative measures, violent offenders may never see the inside of a courtroom. They will do community service if they admit their offence. A Liberal backbencher said during this debate that under alternative measures he could see where a rapist might never see the inside of a courtroom. That does not make sense. That is not the purpose for conditional sentencing or alternative measures.
There are justifiable circumstances for conditional sentencing and there is a role for alternative measures in our justice system, but not when it comes to allowing violent offenders to walk free, such as Mr. Ursel in B.C. That is not what it was meant for.
We have expressed our concerns and our fears. In fact we moved an amendment to Bill C-41 in committee which asked that alternative measures be restricted to non-violent offences. That amendment was killed by the Liberals on the committee.
We do not yet know the consequences of alternative measures, but we surely know the consequences of conditional sentencing. Why do we not change that?
Why will the government not simply say the courts are using the law for a purpose that it did not intend? As the justice minister said last week and again today, people convicted of rape should go to jail. However his law is allowing the courts to set these people free. Why does he not simply change it? Why can we not come together in this place and act in the best interests of society? Why do we not consider the plight of these victims? Why do we not consider that single mom whose life has been ruined while she wrestles with the terrible trauma she went through and her assailant walks free?
How did the judge come down on the side of the offender and not on the side of the victim and the safety of society? He did it with the tools granted him by the House through the justice minister and the government. It is called conditional sentencing. It was contained in Bill C-41, about which we expressed very grave concerns, and nothing was done about it. Now our worst fears have become the victims nightmares.
We are asking the government to change. Why will it not change? How many more victims must be subjected to conditional sentencing while their assailants walk free and they cower in the homes afraid to leave? How many more times must this happen?
Shall we ask the justice minister formally and informally to make this simple change?
We will support Bill C-27, as we have supported bills passed through the House which we thought were in the best interests of society. We have many reservations about certain aspects of the bill, but it goes in the right direction and we will support it.
We ask the minister to bring in an amendment that would deny violent offenders access to conditional sentencing and remove the tools from the courts when they use them improperly. He should change the law. The support would be in our caucus and I am sure throughout the House. Who can stand in this place and say that they support Mr. Ursel walking free after what he did to that young single mom? No one.
We will support the bill regardless of our reservations about it. As the bill hits the road and we see how it is applied that we hope the justice minister, if it needs amendment, will bring it forward. We wish he would do that with Bill C-41 and he has not. I cannot for the life of me understand why.
We will be bringing to the attention of the House case after case after case where the tools granted to the courts have been used improperly and violent offenders have been allowed to walk free.
Rest assured, we ill take this message across the country in the coming election unless the justice minister has the forethought, the wisdom and common sense to bring forward a simple amendment that will deny the courts the tool they are using in an improper way.
I see my time has run out. The Reform Party caucus will support the government's measure and initiative in Bill C-27.