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.