Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this very worth while and very common sense motion that has been brought forward. I am equally pleased that the matter will be voted upon, whereby all members of the House will have an opportunity to express their support or lack of support for the motion.
I would deem this motion to be a very common sense, mother's milk type of motion that is very much aimed at protecting our most vulnerable members of society, our children. This motion would put in place a registry that would provide information which would allow the police to have better access to information about the whereabouts of offenders and about convictions of a sexual nature that have been registered in the courts. This would provide them with the enhanced ability to protect society and to carry out their appointed task. It would simply give them more tools with which to do their job and protect society and, more specifically, protect children.
The motion calls upon the government to establish a registry by January 1, 2002. The member for Langley—Abbotsford is to be commended for bringing this motion forward with the honest intent of ensuring that the registry system is in place by that date.
The government has indicated, in its attempt to co-opt this motion—and there has been some discussion about methods in which it often does this by amending—that it will be supporting the motion. One can only hope that there is a similar and genuine intent behind it to fulfil this commitment, but again, the House will have to excuse my skepticism. We have seen instances as recently as a few weeks ago in this parliament, when Liberal members voted against a motion that essentially came from their own red book. We know that in the Liberal red book there is in fact a reference, albeit an oblique one, to a similar commitment to put a sex offender registry in place.
Government members have indicated today that they may support the motion. Time will tell. Similarly, I hope Canadians, and in particular victims' groups and police officers, will watch what happens after today to see if there is a real commitment. I mean more than just the words, more than the mouthing of the words and the reannouncement of other motions and other commitments that have been made.
I should indicate at this point, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the indomitable, unsinkable member for Saint John. I can assure the House that she will be speaking in favour of this motion, as am I. We have unanimous support in the Progressive Conservative Party for this important motion.
There has been reference to the fact that models in other countries are working. I am talking about the United Kingdom and the United States. Most recently, we have seen efforts made in the province of Ontario to support a similar type of registry. Other provinces are also looking at bringing this motion forward. Members will know that the province of Ontario has put forth concrete examples of how it intends to approach this problem, and it is a problem.
It has been acknowledged by the president of the Canadian Police Association, Grant Obst, that the current system is not working. There is not a current system in place that necessitates the reporting upon release of those who have been convicted of sexual offences to police so that it can track their whereabouts and ensure that individuals who have this past will be identified and will not, often for insidious reasons, find themselves involved in groups where they would be in a position of trust, able to prey upon children and able to perpetrate horrific crimes which have lifelong implications that are so damaging and damning that the children's lives are ruined for all intents and purposes. Often, and I believe it has been alluded to in this debate as well, the same victims go on to perpetrate this type of heinous crime.
It cannot be any more fundamental than that. We should be tasked in this place to do everything we can, everything within our reasonable ability to ensure we are protecting children. This is a very straightforward, common sense way to go about it.
Much of the Ontario example to which other members and I have alluded was as a result of an horrific tragedy in the province of Ontario where Christopher Stephenson was murdered in 1988 by Joseph Fredericks, a convicted pedophile who was out on parole at the time. There was an inquest and a lengthy examination of the factual circumstances of the case and circumstances surrounding similar crimes. The inquest resulted in the suggestion that there should be a creation of a national sex offender registry.
The motion as presented does not bind the House to proceed in any certain direction. I would suggest that it could be used to complement the current CPIC system or it could be a stand alone system.
There is certainly ample evidence of a contradiction, to which the member for Winnipeg—Transcona alluded, that the government would somehow justify not pursuing this as a stand alone system. It used the same argument, because offenders would not voluntarily register, when the same system used for registering firearms was plagued with the issue of non-compliance and individuals who are not voluntarily complying on pain of criminal conviction, one might add.
The government is not prepared to put in place a system that would mandate that sex offenders participate in registry, but it is willing to put in place at huge expense to the Canadian public purse, $500 million plus, that if people do not register their long guns, being law-abiding citizens their entire lives, they are subject to criminal prosecution. It is absolutely perverse, but it is atypical of the attitude of the Liberal government and the endless pursuit of bureaucracy in putting in place systems that will not work.
Here we have a system being presented, a common sense approach to protect children, and it will apparently be sloughed aside or given lip service in a vote later today by the Liberals. It will not be followed up. While other governments like the government of the province of Ontario are pushing for the federal government to create a national registry, this is being rejected.
Soon after the Liberals rejected Bill C-247, a private member's bill introduced by their own member for Mississauga East, we saw an attempt by one government member to bring forward a process that would allow for consecutive sentencing for repeat or multiple murderers, sex offenders, or those convicted of violent crimes. There was a rejection, an outright campaign on the government side to ensure that type of legislation did not come into effect.
The Ontario government in its wisdom passed that legislation 90 to 0, it is worth noting, in its provincial legislature on April 4, 2000. Christopher's law is the first of its kind in the country. It requires those convicted of serious sexual offences, those who are dangerous, high risk sex offenders, to register their names and addresses with the police in the jurisdictions where they will be residing.
The information in the registry could be available to local police forces. They would have the ability to release the information, when required and when justified, to public groups such as the Guides, the Scouts, Big Brothers and hockey organizations or athletic organizations.
That is the purpose for which this type of information could be used. There is also the deterrent aspect. Knowing that the registry is in place and that the information is available to police and to certain groups acts as a deterrent. It is the equivalent of the sword of Damocles hanging over an offender's head if he or she chose to be indiscreet.
There are practical implications for such a registry. The Canadian Police Association, 30,000 strong, strongly endorsed a registry. The victims groups, and I would suggest hundreds of thousands of Canadians, see the wisdom in having this type of system. Privacy rights could be protected. The system could be crafted in such a way that it would not infringe the charter of rights.
I wholeheartedly endorse and agree that we should always err on the side of caution when it comes to protecting children from the damage that can flow from the crimes perpetrated against them. The Progressive Conservative Party will be supporting the motion wholeheartedly. My colleague from Saint John will be adding her remarks to this debate.