Debates of March 13th, 2001
House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Message From The Senate
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Semaine Nationale De La Francophonie
- Minister Of Finance
- Customs And Revenue Agency
- Airport Facilities
- Grants And Contributions
- Member For Edmonton North
- Solange Tremblay
- Premier Of Quebec
- Learning Disabilities Month
- National Epilepsy Month
- Corporate Concentration
- The Economy
- International Co-Operation
- Employment Insurance
- Research And Development
- Amateur Sport
- Points Of Order
- Division No. 17
- Criminal Code
Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member just illustrated some very graphic and disturbing examples of sexual predators who the system is not dealing with properly.
We are advocating a sexual offender registry that would track people and make reporting mandatory in order to try to prevent more of these types of occurrences. We see an obstinance in and a refusal by the Liberal government to want to address the problem.
This reminds me of the British Columbia court ruling last January or the January before when it ruled that the possession of child pornography was legal. We put a vote in the House of Commons to invoke the notwithstanding clause in the constitution to override that. It was basic common sense and the government voted it down.
Why does the member think the Liberal government is reluctant to deal with such a serious problem in our society? Why does it refuse to act?
Bob Mills Red Deer, AB
Mr. Speaker, this should be a non-partisan issue. All of us care about our children and, in many of our cases, our grandchildren. I know you do, Mr. Speaker. The children are the ones I am most concerned about when it comes to sexual predators. It is our job as members of parliament to protect the children.
What we have here is a very liberal point of view. I do not understand the psychological thinking of people who can be more concerned about the rights of a nine-time offender than they can be about the potential 10th and 11th victims. I do not understand that when these are six year old kids.
I come from a province where Liberals are an endangered species and perhaps that is why I do not understand that Liberal thinking. However, that is the way it is. It is a Liberal way of thinking.
Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC
Mr. Speaker, what I really would have liked to have seen today is the solicitor general stand up and say that all parties agree on the issue, that it is a good idea, that the government has been working on it and that we should take the proposal, bring it forward and develop a national sex offender registry. Instead, he has said that he does not agree with what we have said but that he will vote for it because the government is doing it anyway.
The problem is, and here is where we differ, that the country says we need a national sex offender registry. It can be handled within CPIC but it does need legislation to mandate reporting systems. It needs legislation to provide penalties if one does not report. The government says that it is taking care of it in CPIC but we are saying that CPIC is missing part of it.
How does my colleague think we can influence the government to say more than just yes, it is doing it? How can we actually get it to understand the severity of the case and to change it?
Bob Mills Red Deer, AB
Mr. Speaker, what has been the surprising is that people will stand up and say that it is covered by CPIC. All they have to do is talk to some of the police officers, the lawyers and the judges and they will tell them that the information is inadequate, that it is out of date and that it is just not there.
We need this registry. We need it to be accurate for sexual offenders. We need to know their addresses and phone numbers. The police need to be able to go to them instantly. Remember that this is for the police. They need to be able to go to the offenders instantly if there is an offence in a particular jurisdiction. What this motion is all about is to prevent there being more victims. It will work.
Obviously there will be penalties if offenders do not register but those penalties need to be enforced. Those people must do that. For people to simply wash over it and say that it is already there, they must have their heads in the sand if they do not listen to what experts are telling them.
Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to participate in the debate on the official opposition's supply day motion calling on the Liberal government to immediately create a national sex offender registry.
Creating a national sex offender registry is a non-partisan issue because it is about the safety and protection of Canadians and our children and their futures. It is about making our streets, our neighbourhoods and our communities safer. I would expect the Liberals to not look through the lens of political stripes but rather through the lens of issues and to the importance of this issue.
Once again the Canadian Alliance must twist the arm of the government. We did that two weeks ago. We forced backbench Liberal MPs, all Liberal MPs except two, to vote against Liberal Party policy. In red book one the Liberals called for the establishment of an independent ethics counsellor. Because they have yet to fulfil that promise, the Canadian Alliance gave the Liberals that opportunity two weeks ago, but they voted against their own promise.
As the official opposition, not only do we provide effective criticism of the government but we also provide alternative solutions. As the official opposition we carry the flashlight and very often show the Liberals their darkness. Sometimes we even make them read their own red books.
I commend the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford for spearheading the Canadian Alliance supply day motion on the creation of a national sex offender registry. He has been working on the issue for quite some time. I feel that I bring a unique perspective to the debate today.
In the last election the three-time defeated Liberal candidate advocated in Surrey Central that, if elected, he would create a national sex offender registry through a private member's bill. The Liberal candidate in Surrey Central was already told, probably before the election, that a new Liberal government would not create a national sex offender registry. That is why he resorted to a private members' bill.
The Prime Minister admitted that parents have the right to be concerned and he virtually confessed to the candidate in Surrey Central that he could not stop him from trying to create the registry through a private members' bill. The Prime Minister knew that his office and the cabinet do not listen to backbench members after an election. The MPs listen to the Prime Minister's office and the party whip.
The Prime Minister knows that private members' business is a weaker tool in the House since all private members' bills are not votable. Very rarely does a private members' bill or motion become law. A private members' bill is like a pacifier given to a baby. It keeps the baby busy and hopeful but nothing comes out of it. That is how private members' business in the House operates because they are not votable. We keep working hard but very rarely does something come out of it. That was the point the Liberal candidate from Surrey Central was trying to make.
The official opposition motion is about creating a national sex offender registry. The motion is votable. It is a litmus test for Liberal members in the House. I am proud to be here today joining my colleagues as a member of the official opposition team calling for the establishment of something that was promised by my opponent in the recent election.
The sex offender registry would be established and maintained by the solicitor general's department. The registry would contain the name, address, date of birth, list of sex offences and any other prescribed information about a person convicted of a sex offence anywhere in Canada.
Information to be included in the registry would be collected from offenders themselves and from any other source available to the minister such as Correctional Service of Canada, the National Parole Board, et cetera.
The registry would be available only to the minister and police forces for the purpose of crime prevention and law enforcement. The registry would apply to every person convicted of a sex offence or found not criminally responsible for a sex offence on account of a mental disorder. This would include anyone serving a sentence for a sex offence on the day the registry comes into force and would not apply to young offenders.
Every offender who resides in Canada would be required to register in person at his or her local police station at least once a year and provide updated information to be added to the registry. The offender would be required to register within 15 days of release from custody.
Persons convicted of a sex offence that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or less would have to report to police for 10 years. Persons convicted of a sex offence with a longer sentence would have to report to the police for the rest of their lives.
Any person pardoned for all of their sex offences would be relieved of the requirement to report to police and his or her record would be deleted from the registry. Any offender whose name appears in the registry may ask to see the information and correct it if necessary. Regulations may be made to limit the number of times a person may ask to see such information. A police officer would be able to obtain a warrant for the arrest of a person failing to register and report as required.
If convicted, the offender would face a fine of up to $25,000 and/or up to a year in prison for the first offence. A second offence would bring a $25,000 fine and/or up to two years less a day in jail.
Such legislation is long overdue. One-fifth of all offenders in Canada are sex offenders. One-fourth of the total federal incarcerated population is sex offenders. Out of sex offenders under community supervision 14% are on day parole, 31% are on full parole and 54% are on statutory release. They are out in the community. This illustrates the gravity of the situation and the importance of passing the motion.
In the United States the registries assist police to identify suspects and solve sex offences quicker. In the United Kingdom the sex offenders act has been in place since September 1997. The province of Ontario has created a provincial registry due to government inaction at the federal level. Other provinces like British Columbia and Saskatchewan will also be establishing similar registries.
A national sex offender registry has the support of many groups, including the Ontario and Saskatchewan associations of chiefs of police, the Canadian Police Association, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. There is widespread support for such a registry. In Surrey Central, Councillor Dianne Watts has collected a large number of signatures on a petition which will be tabled in the House later.
In conclusion, it is appropriate that we are discussing the matter today. Last week the police arrested a convicted pedophile after the man allegedly breached probation in Saskatchewan and was applying for jobs at Ontario day care centres. He was caught allegedly shoplifting at a local department store.
All David Caza's applications were rejected after the day care centres did a criminal background check. We are debating today a Canadian Alliance motion to create a national sex offender registry which would disable people like David Caza from pursuing innocent victims. The government should give police this new and effective tool for crime prevention and law enforcement.
John McKay Scarborough East, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat of a strange day when the opposition motion is such that government members all agree with it. There does not seem to be much argument as to whether there should be a so-called registry of offences. The question is whether there should be a separate registry of offences.
Members opposite think that in some measure the creation of a separate registry will protect people and children from dangerous pedophiles. The people in Canada listening need to know there is a registry of offenders. If an hon. member is convicted of a criminal code offence it goes into a police registry system. It is called the Canadian Police Information System, or CPIC as it has been referred to. It is a fairly simple system and yet a lot of detailed information goes into it.
For example, if an hon. member is convicted of an assault, that information appears along with all relevant information pertaining to his or her blood type, fingerprints, last known address, age and height, et cetera. It is a fairly elaborate system. When a police officer or any of his colleagues across the country punch the name into the computer they have access to that information. The information on the computer shows what the individual has been convicted of. It also includes sexual offences.
I am a little hard pressed to know how the opposition motion assists the concerns of Canadians that there will be somehow more information if we have a separate registry system. If the argument were rephrased in terms of making more information available in the CPIC system, it would get even more support from members on this side of the House.
To set up an additional registry system that would in theory require a police officer to look at the CPIC system and then to check an additional system does not make a great deal of sense on the face of it. If the argument in the motion is that the systems should be merged and that information generated in the CPIC system should disclose not only criminal information but also information regarding sexual issues, I think all members could support that.
Unfortunately there does not seem to be a great deal of consensus among attorneys general across the country on the efficacy of a separate system. From the standpoint of this side of the House there does not seem to be any great reason for a separate system if attorneys general across the country had consensus that the necessary modifications to the CPIC system could be set up.
Members need to know that information can be forwarded to CPIC automatically if a police officer gets information on a new address of a convicted pedophile. That is process rather than a legislated information update. Rather than forcing it, it is simply good police practice.
In Ontario there is a strange situation where a sexual assault registry has been proposed. I am hard pressed to understand how it works. If people are convicted of a sexual assault of some kind they generally do not go to police stations after the completion of their sentences to tell the police where they are living. To have an additional sanction of a $25,000 fine seems like a response to an issue, but I respectfully submit it is more of an appearance of a response to an issue rather than a meaningful response to an issue.
Police officers are generally at the forefront of soliciting information pertaining to people who are convicted of sexual offences. When they come in contact with an individual they can certainly update the CPIC information so that all police officers across the country know of it.
Canadians should also know Bill C-7 was passed in the last parliament which closed an anomaly in the pardon system. Prior to the passage of Bill C-7 a convicted individual who had completed his or her sentence for a sexual matter could have the record sealed and ask for a pardon.
Parliament was persuaded this was a loophole and addressed it, so that if an individual applies to teach school or participate with children in a Boy Scout's activity or something of that nature, a criminal record check is now done. Even if the record is sealed the individual is tagged. A little flag comes up on the CPIC system saying that the individual has been convicted of some sexual matter. Then the organization receives the information. That is significant to people who are concerned about known pedophiles in individual communities.
Canadians also need to know about subsection 753(1) of the criminal code which is generally known as the dangerous offenders legislation. It is an extensive section that was passed to address this issue, if not by the last parliament, the one before. Any crown attorney dealing with matters pertaining to sentencing can make an application concerning a dangerous offender.
It would be instructive to read into the record that section of the criminal code. People should know that a crown attorney can make an application at any time after a conviction. Once the sentences of individuals are completed their names can be tagged. They can be required to report to probation officers and to provide updates on their addresses.
The criminal code says that the court may find an offender to be a long term offender if it is satisfied that there is a substantial risk that the offender will reoffend, that there is a reasonable possibility of eventual control of the risk in the community. It then gives a list of sections where this application may be made: section 151, sexual interference; section 152, invitation to sexual touching; section 153, sexual exploitation; and section 271, sexual assault. It lists all the sections that concern Canadians the most about this issue.
The crown can make that application and can say that it has reason to believe that an individual will reoffend. That is consistent with the testimony that we heard on the justice committee, which was that people who are convicted of these kinds of offences do reoffend. Pedophiles do not get over whatever it is that affects them and creates the behaviour that they participate in.
If the crown can make the case and if an offender has been shown to have a repetitive behaviour of a particular pattern, then the crown can order that at the end of the individual's sentence, whether it is a five year jail sentence or whatever, the individual would have a period of up to 10 years of community contact with the probation services. That is a pretty effective way in which the community can be advised of the presence of the individual in the community and can then take whatever preventative measures are necessary.
There are two fairly significant initiatives in parliament's recent past that address the concerns of Canadians in a substantive way. The first has to do with tagging people who are making applications for pardons. The second has to do with the creation of dangerous offender legislation. This is a pretty substantive intrusion into people's civil liberties.
I appreciate that members opposite have mixed views on the rights of the accused. They argue that there are rights for the accused but they want to know where the rights are for the victims. Members should bear in mind that all Canadians have exactly the same rights. We are intruding in, on this schedule offences, on the notion that an individual has served his or her sentence and time to society.
To give an example, if I assault an individual and I serve my sentence, at the end of five years I will not be categorized as a dangerous long term offender. However, if I sexually assault an individual and it is found to be a repetitive behaviour on my part, I can be, in effect, on parole for up to 10 years after I have served my sentence. That is a pretty significant change in the thinking. I would support that change because the people for whom the legislation concerns are people who simply do not get over whatever it is that they have.
Canadians need to know that when the opposition members raise the issue of a separate sexual offence registry, it is in the context of these two fairly significant initiatives on the part of previous parliaments, namely, the pardon issue and the dangerous offender issue. Those are two very significant issues.
Would we have a better system if we created a separate sexual offence registry? I submit that is a dubious proposition at best. We may have some rather bizarre anomalies where an individual may show up in the one registry as having been convicted of a sexual offence of some kind, but the other registry would have all the material pertaining to the fact that the person had been charged and convicted with attempted murder or a variety of assaults, et cetera. It seems somewhat strange that we should be arguing about whether we should have two registries or one registry.
If the argument is simply that the current system be updated, I do not think that is difficult. If the argument is that the current system is inadequate in some respect, again I do not think that is difficult. We are into arguments about technicalities. If the argument is about whether the police communicates properly with their communities or whether there are dangerous offenders released into the community, I think we can talk about that.
The hon. member for Etobicoke North made a rather significant point, that at some time all offenders end up back on the street. At one point or another every convicted criminal ends up back on the street somehow or other. We could say that we will lock these people away forever. That does not work, so the question is: Can we stage it?
If we create with these kinds of debates an hostile atmosphere toward the release of these individuals back into the community, we have the ironical issue of creating the very conditions we wish to resolve. It is a bit strange. If we are not careful about what we are saying we are in fact creating conditions which will make hostile the release of any individual into the community. Therefore we marginalize the individual and the more we marginalize the individual we have the ironical impact of the individual repeating his or her behaviour. In effect, in some bizarre fashion we create more difficulties than intended. A bit of Murphy's law applies here.
Those are the issues of significance to Canadians. Canadians legitimately are concerned that there are people in their communities they should know about. I believe, with the greatest respect to colleagues opposite, that we are not debating whether the information is not available. The question is whether the information should be formatted within the greater CPIC system or whether it should be formatted in a separate registry altogether.
This is not merely a criminal justice issue. It is as much a social justice issue as anything. All criminal behaviour occurs in a social context. I hope that members concerned about amending the criminal code regarding dangerous pedophiles would also be supportive of initiatives on the part of Correctional Service Canada and of provincial governments that in fact create conditions which prevent that behaviour. My concern is that if we hit from the left and hit from the right we see these initiatives not merely in the context of criminal justice but in the context of social justice.
Statements By Members
March 13th, 2001 / 1:55 p.m.
Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Sigma-Lamaque complex of the McWatters corporation has been closed since February 14, 2001, while the Beaufor mine has been shut down since August 2000.
The government should take action to increase its presence and its involvement in resource regions that have difficulties adjusting to the new economy.
The government should set up a financial assistance program for thin capitalization mines located in Canada's resource regions.
The government should reinstate the Emergency Gold Mining Assistance Act to help Canada's gold mine operators deal with the low price of gold by guaranteeing them a fixed price for the gold they produce.
Statements By Members
Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK
Mr. Speaker, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Matthew Coon Come, is seeking to empower grassroots aboriginal people in Canada by enabling them to vote for the person of their choice for the office of AFN's national chief: one member, one vote.
Mr. Coon Come is not the first national chief to believe that such a move toward grassroots democracy would be a positive step. Former national chiefs Ovide Mercredi, in 1991, and Phil Fontaine, in 1998, supported this proposal for democratic change.
Mr. Coon Come is not trying to do anything alarming or unprecedented. He is simply moving the Assembly of First Nations in the direction of democratic accountability to grassroots aboriginals so the ordinary band member can be assured of proper representation.
This initiative is based upon the same principles of grassroots democracy that are important to the Canadian Alliance. I applaud Mr. Coon Come and the many aboriginals who support him for trying to move in this direction.
Semaine Nationale De La Francophonie
Statements By Members
Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC
Mr. Speaker, we are celebrating the Semaine nationale de la Francophonie from March 11 to 25. This is an opportunity for the nine million French speaking Canadians to show how proud they are to speak and to live in French.
The Semaine nationale de la Francophonie is a major celebration that allows francophones and francophiles to express their attachment to the French language and culture. This celebration of the French fact in Canada is testimony to the vitality of the Francophonie.
While these events provide a window on our francophone heritage, our Francophonie is very much a contemporary reality with ever growing ties. This week is also an invitation to discover or rediscover those who help promote the Francophonie and make it thrive.
Minister Of Finance
Statements By Members
Andy Burton Skeena, BC
Mr. Speaker, the recent visit to western Canada by the Minister of Finance was billed as an opportunity to gather feedback on western concerns through face to face meetings with community leaders.
I do not know what the protocol was for other stops on the minister's tour, but in my riding of Skeena, B.C., three MLAs and myself were neither notified nor invited to participate. Curiously enough, however, three Liberal mayors were invited. I am sure they provided input to the minister, but surely the duly elected provincial NDP MLAs and the Alliance MP could also have contributed significantly to the discussion.
It is a shame that partisan politics is allowed to interfere with the necessary process to alleviate western concerns on economic difficulties. I for one am quite prepared to put politics aside in working toward common goals and solutions for my region.
Was the minister's true purpose for his western visit not so much to deal with western alienation but to build support for his eventual race for the Prime Minister's Office?
Customs And Revenue Agency
Statements By Members
Sophia Leung Vancouver Kingsway, BC
Mr. Speaker, as part of the second national symposium on fairness, the Minister of National Revenue unveiled the new corporate identify of Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.
This new image provides CCRA clients with a unified and consistent design approach to information products. This strong graphic vision reinforces its commitment to improve communication with clients across Canada.
The new approach will reinforce the CCRA slogan “More Ways to Serve You” and its commitment to client service. I congratulate the minister and the agency for the progress they have made in implementing their seven point plan for fairness and in addressing the requirements for improved communications with Canadians.
Statements By Members
Denis Paradis Brome—Missisquoi, QC
Mr. Speaker, agriculture and agri-food must be able to rise to all of today's challenges and opportunities, be they globalization, new technology, the preservation of high standards in food safety, environmental protection and so on. Our agricultural leaders must be equipped to address these challenges and opportunities.
A group of Canadians, leaders in the various agricultural sectors, are in Ottawa today to gather information and have discussions in the context of the Canadian agriculture lifetime leadership program.
I want to salute them, their commitment and their devotion and, more specifically, I salute Aimé Jacob of my beautiful riding of Brome—Missisquoi.
Statements By Members
Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC
Mr. Speaker, the firm Au Dragon Forgé of Terrebonne has been awarded three new contracts worth $49.5 million, which include the engineering contract for a new building for the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec in Montreal. The two other contracts awarded are in the States, including one at the Miami airport.
Maintaining its reputation, this Quebec firm was chosen, among other reasons, for its ability to manage the particularly complex and restrictive aspects of airport facilities. Its expertise makes it a leader in its field, and its successes—regional, national and international—bear witness to the high quality of the work done by its employees.
I offer my warmest congratulations to the executives of ADF in Terrebonne and want them to know just how proud I am of their dynamism and their contribution to spreading the fame of Terrebonne—Blainville.
Grants And Contributions
Statements By Members
John Harvard Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB
Mr. Speaker, on March 10 our government announced a contribution of close to $3 million to six community rural health and research initiatives in Manitoba.
I remind the House that these projects demonstrate the ongoing commitment of the Government of Canada to maintaining and improving the health of Canadians. Projects like these, which protect and promote good health, are vitally important and contribute to the commitment made by all first ministers in September 2000 to improve wellness.
This announcement complements the close to $4 million announced earlier by the Government of Canada for Winnipeg based community health and research initiatives, including two telehealth projects that will have a positive impact on rural residents.
These items, in addition to the increase in federal transfer payments to the provinces for the delivery of health care services, represent a strong commitment to the important rural health needs of Canadians.
Member For Edmonton North
Statements By Members
Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC
Mr. Speaker, today marks the 12th anniversary of the first election to parliament of a special friend of mine. On March 13, 1989, she won a byelection in the riding of Beaver River.
During those lonely days in Ottawa she kept the faith alive for a new political movement. She acted as a leader and encourager of the Reform Party as that party grew and eventually became the official opposition. She played key roles throughout the united alternative process which led to the Canadian Alliance and in the election in November, which saw an increase of 750,000 votes and an increase to 66 seats while other opposition parties decreased.
Her intelligence, her quick wit and her many skills have made her shine in whatever role she has played, whether as caucus chair, deputy leader or even as leader of the official opposition. She is living evidence that someone can be principled and authentic and still succeed in public life.
Her private life is also an example. During her years as a schoolteacher she opened her home as a foster parent to several aboriginal children. She is a hard worker and a loyal and loving friend.
It is with great affection and respect that I say happy 12th anniversary and congratulations to the hon. member.