Motion No. 1
That Bill C-27, in Clause 1, be amended by deleting lines 20 to 29 on page 3 and lines 1 to 7 on page 4.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that the government has decided to bring Bill C-27 back to the House for final consideration and passage.
Could members of the Reform Party be asked to be a little quieter, so that I may continue? We gave them our attention, but the debate is over for them now.
This is a bill covering three topics: sex tourism, child prostitution, criminal harassment and female genital mutilation. I think that it goes in the right direction, but I deplore the fact that the government has not agreed to all our suggestions, which were all based on comments made by witnesses who appeared before the committee.
I myself introduced two private member's bills on sex tourism and female genital mutilation that were more in line with the wishes of the witnesses heard.
Today, the Bloc Quebecois is proposing an important amendment to Bill C-27 as it relates to sex tourism. The Bloc Quebecois' purpose in introducing this amendment is to remove from the bill a completely new provision that did not appear in the original text and that was quietly slipped in by the standing committee during clause by clause study of the bill.
Once again, the government has acted at the last minute, without notice, to impose upon us a measure which changes considerably the scope of the original bill. I would like us to take a closer look at this little trick that the government is trying to perform.
First of all, I would like to remind the House that the purpose of the new provisions on sex tourism is to allow the prosecution in Canada of Canadian citizens who go abroad to sexually exploit children knowing that they have little chance of being prosecuted, let alone punished.
Since the people of Canada and Quebec do not condone the sexual exploitation of children by their fellow citizens, whether these children live in Canada or elsewhere, the government is seeking to change the Canadian legislation to include an exception to the usual rules so that those who commit such acts outside our borders can be punished. As we can see, the objective of this measure is to send a clear message to all Canadians. The message is clear indeed: do not touch children; respect for children and their physical integrity are very important to us.
I said this was an exceptional measure. It is exceptional in that, according to the usual rules of law, each country is sovereign within its own territory and no other country can interfere with what goes on within that territory.
In other words, when a Canadian citizen travels abroad to sexually exploit children, it is up to the authority in the country where the crime occurred to press charges. Unfortunately, governments in several of the countries where child sex tourism is widespread do not have the legislation, the manpower or the political will to put a stop to this type of abuse.
This is why Canada is taking its responsibilities and finally fulfilling its international commitments concerning children rights. With this bill, the Canadian government is getting the means to sue its own citizens once they are back from their little trips abroad. We support this principle, but now the government has introduced a provision whose results will be in conflict with the goal we are trying to reach here.
This provision is found in clause 1 which amends section 7 of the Criminal Code to provide for a procedure to be used when a child sexual assault has occurred outside Canada. Pursuant to this new provision, for legal proceedings to be instituted in Canada, the country where the assault occurred must submit a request to this effect to the Canadian Minister of Justice. And the minister has to agree to prosecute.
Those who are somewhat familiar with sexual tourism soon realize that this proposal is sheer nonsense. How can we expect a third world country, known as a haven for sexual tourists, to ask a foreign government to sue in its place? How can we believe that these countries, even if they do not have the laws, the manpower or simply the political will to protect their own children, are going to admit to the whole world that they are unable or unwilling to do anything? This is asking a bit much.
This whole legislative effort is all for naught since it is a well known fact that child sex tourism has reached such alarming levels precisely because of the tolerance or lack of resources on the part of the host countries. These countries are certainly not ready to be humiliated and ask a foreign government to step in and fill this legal vacuum. I honestly believe that the only instance when these provisions would work is if the victim and the criminal are Canadian.
It goes without saying that any country would then realize how appropriate it is to let the Canadian government deal with the case. One can easily assume that in all other instances nothing will change and children will continue to be sexually exploited by tourists looking for kicks. My bill did not contain such half measures. It was quite clear. It provided for the prosecution of
offenders, regardless of the willingness of foreign governments. This was too much to ask, I believe.
In the name of the sacrosanct sovereignty of states, the motion passed by the government will insure that crimes against children will go unpunished, those same children Canada solemnly committed to helping when it signed several international documents. This is the way this government honours its commitments. My amendment would eliminate this procedural requirement and allow the bill to do what it is supposed to do, namely protect children.
I urge you to support the Bloc Quebecois' amendment, in order to better protect children in Canada and abroad.