Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Canadian Alliance motion on the establishment of a national sex offender registry by January 1, 2002.
At the outset I should like to wholeheartedly thank my constituents in Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam for having endowed me last November with their trust and confidence to represent their best interests in the House. I also thank the member for Langley—Abbotsford for drafting and raising the issue in the House, because it is a central concern to countless families in my constituency.
This is my maiden speech, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the debate on what is the first order of responsibility of the state. What do I mean by that?
Simply put, if the government cannot balance its budget, if it cannot agree on a standard for weights and measures, if it cannot organize its monetary framework or agree on a national anthem, the first principle and responsibility to state, above all else, is to protect law-abiding citizens from law breakers. It is to separate those who play by the rules of civilized behaviour from those who do not. This is reflected in Abraham Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs that many academics speak about.
The Canadian Alliance motion calls for an effective and meaningful national sex offender registry with teeth. It is something which despite declarations from the government side does not yet exist. We are talking about legislation which mirrors laws that currently exist in the province of Ontario and is being considered in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia. The United Kingdom has already implemented a sex offender registry and all 50 U.S. states have sex offender registries. There are national governing mechanisms in place to organize it.
Instead of taking bold steps and showing leadership, the government has taken refuge in the Canadian Police Information Centre rather than offer real protection for Canadian families and their children through a new national sex offender registry.
The very fact that provinces have moved to implement registries should compel the government to act on a national basis to avoid differing regional and jurisdictional standards and to prevent sex offenders from wandering from one province to another, avoiding accountability for their actions.
This was the exact problem that Americans faced before former president, Bill Clinton, established a national registry with uniform standards. Different states were using different registration criteria and standards as well as different notification and database logistics. This led to inter-jurisdictional disputes and confusion. Under national laws that were established many of these problems have been ironed out.
Canada has an opportunity to learn from those difficulties and establish a national registry. This is an opportunity for the government to show leadership by setting up a national registry ahead of time and avoiding the pitfalls experienced by the United States. The issue is about more than jurisdictions, amendments, committee work and legislation tightening. It is about victims and the right to live free from fear.
Abby Drover is a constituent of mine. In 1976 she was the victim of a horrendous crime. For 181 days she was sexually assaulted and brutalized by Donald Alexander Hay. From March to September of that year, Mr. Hay kept the then 12 year old Abby in a prison under his Port Moody garage for his sexual pleasure. He lured Abby to his house on the offer of a ride to school and forced her into a 36 square foot room. He handcuffed the young child and secured the handcuffs to the wall of her cell with chains that were bolted into studs anchored into the cell's concrete walls. He fondled, sexually assaulted and raped the young girl repeatedly.
During the final six weeks of her captivity all he brought her to eat was two chocolate bars. He later testified in court that the reason he did this was because he hoped she would just die. On the 181st day of her captivity police found Hay with his pants around his ankles coming up from the entrance to Abby's prison.
He was charged with kidnapping and having sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 14. He was jailed and sentenced to life, but like so many spineless laws we have in the country, Mr. Hay's life sentence allows him to apply for freedom every 24 months.
Parole reports say that Hay has low victim empathy and still needs more insight into his offence. There is every legal possibility that every 24 months Mr. Hay could be released into my constituency and my community.
Will he reoffend if he is released? We do not know. What we do know, according to U.S. department of justice statistics, is that about 50% of rapists and sexual assaulters released into society are rearrested for a new crime and more than one-third are reconvicted. In Canada research from the federal government shows that the longer one tracks a sexual offender, the higher the recidivism rate is. Data indicates that between 42% and 45% of sexual offenders will in fact reoffend.
At issue here is the potential to reoffend and the right of communities to live free from fear. Given the statistics associated with sex offenders and their recidivism rate, there seems to be an obvious responsibility on the House, on our shoulders, to prevent future crimes when and where we can. The registry is a tool to help do precisely that.
Recognizing this reality, some Canadian provinces have already shown leadership in creating sex offender registries, as has been mentioned by the member for Surrey Central and others. In Queen's Park on February 28, 2000, the standing committee on justice and social policy met to debate bill 31, also known as Christopher's Law. The most interesting aspect of the committee's meeting was the cross party support for the bill. It was a cross party consensus that a sex offender registry was needed, appropriate, and would move the province toward greater justice and greater responsibility to victims.
The all party support was not a tongue in cheek, foot dragging type of endorsement like we heard this morning from the solicitor general but a thorough commitment to a registry with teeth. All NDP, Liberal and Conservative MPPs in Queen's Park supported the bill. Not only did Dalton McGuinty's Ontario Liberals support the bill, but in committee the Liberal attorney general critic, Michael Bryant, who is an adjunct law professor from Osgoode Hall Law School, mentioned “We support this bill and this bill should have been passed a long time ago”. All three elected political parties recognized that the government should establish a sex offender registry because public safety should reach beyond partisan slugfests.
Our proposed national sex offender registry would provide our police with something that they have not yet had: a mechanism to keep track of sex offenders from coast to coast to coast. The registry would be a vital investigative tool allowing police to monitor sex offenders in our communities.
Studies from the United States show conclusively that registries have enabled law enforcement agencies to solve crimes quicker and to identify suspects sooner. Convicted sex offenders would be required to register as a condition of release from custody. Any failure to do so would be a violation of a condition of their release and result in an immediate return to custody. The information would be entered into a national sex offender database and made available only to police services.
Ontario's law provides for effective monitoring of the offenders by requiring them to register with police within 15 days of a change of address or within 15 days of coming to or leaving Ontario. The offender must provide the police with his name, address, date of birth and other information deemed necessary by the police, not bureaucrats, not politicians, not posturers, that will best suit the safety of citizens in their communities.
If an offender does not comply, Ontario's legislation mandates a first time penalty of $25,000 or a year in jail and for more than one offence, $25,000 and two years in jail. This is a common sense approach to crime prevention. It provides for safer streets and a sense of security in neighbourhoods like Port Moody for victims of sex offences like one of my constituents, Abby Drover.
In conclusion, a national sex offender registry is long overdue. Safe communities should be a national priority as is the case in the United States, our largest trading partner, and in the United Kingdom. Police deserve every reasonable tool available to protect the innocent from the evil and the depraved.
I urge my colleagues in the House, especially the government members, to think of innocent victims of sexual abuse, rape, torture and torment when they consider supporting the Canadian Alliance motion to establish a meaningful and effective national sex offender registry tonight.
Let us join with other provinces and nations, the real leaders of the world, in taking a solid step forward for a safer future for all Canadians in their communities. Safer families and safer children is the way to go.