moved that Bill C-278, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibited sexual acts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-278, which would raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16.
I should make mention at this point that it is the third time this private member's bill has hit the floor of the House. It is the third time there was enough emotion and concern to bring it forward, and that is the viewpoint held by so many people outside the House. I might also point out that I think parliamentarians overall find a universal agreement on matters like this in the House.
The protection of our children is the key point that the bill targets. It brings into focus the concern expressed by the public who want a greater level of security for our children. The bill would not answer all the problems out there when it comes to sexual offenders and how they may act or react against our most vulnerable. There are other variables, such as the early release of pedophiles and sexual offenders, that contribute to the growing number of victims in our society.
I think we all have a differing view on the role of government in this area. However, overall, whether we are Conservative, Bloc, Liberal, socialist or libertarian, there is a general consensus to protect Canada's children.
I think the one word that really describes the reaction of the public when a child, one of the more vulnerable in our society, is attacked by a pedophile or a sexual offender, is outrage. I think we have seen this outrage expressed time and time again in every community across the country.
As a police officer, I remember when a whole community would almost have to hunker down because a sexual offender was released from prison. The sexual offender was so dangerous that the public had to be notified and his picture had to be posted, and yet he was being released.
The big concern regarding that particular individual was the fact that his target was young children. He would not touch 15 or 16 year olds as they were of no concern to him. He was after the younger children, the ones who were 14, 13, 12 and perhaps younger. That took great resources from the community, the police and social services. Partnerships available to deal with this kind of crime must be tied together to combat it effectively. We must put those at risk in a more secure area.
I have a couple of press releases before me that reflect what happens when a sexual offender threatens a community. I will read two very important examples because they do tell quite a story. These stories will have been heard and repeated time and time again in communities.
The first story deals with a 52 year old parolee who had been serving a life sentence as a dangerous sexual offender. He was released on parole. Hardly a few days had gone by when he grabbed a young girl, just above being a toddler, and walked down the street with her. Fortunately, her father was not far away and he was able to intercept and get his daughter back to safety.
The parolee's propensity was to go after the very young and the very vulnerable. He was fully paroled after serving 29 years of a life sentence for brutally raping a three year old girl. Everyone, including the police, were notified about this man's release. The parole board said that it had no choice. The community, in this particular case, was unaware of what was about to happen. Thank God there was some intervention on the part of the father as this individual was attempting to apply his desires upon this young girl. These things should not be happening. The community has a right to know about these kinds of situations.
The second example deals with a repeat pedophile who was infected with HIV, syphilis and two strains of hepatitis. He was freed from prison and moved into a Toronto halfway house. He had four previous charges and was convicted of sex crimes against pubescent boys aged 9 to 14.
These are habitual types of crimes zeroing in on the most vulnerable: children aged 12 to 15. My bill would like to raise the level of protection up to 15.
Some people have proclaimed that they would like to see the age of consent lowered to 12. However, the majority of Canadians do not hold that viewpoint. The House has made an effort to do that. However, that does not reflect the viewpoint of people in my community and it certainly does not reflect the viewpoint of parents who are attempting to keep their children safe and secure and want what is best for them. They want to be able to protect them, and herein lies the involvement of our legislators in government, the people in the House.
It seems, as time passes from one generation to the next, the innocence of childhood gets shorter and shorter. The bill is a very small attempt to restore innocence to youth, to curtail and incarcerate sexual predators who pick on those under 16. For too long we have allowed the exploitation of society's most vulnerable, our children, by those who would extinguish their youth and replace it with mistrust, suspicion and lasting psychological and sometimes physical damage.
Apart from the psychological costs to the victim, the societal costs can be absolutely enormous. On numerous occasions I have had individuals come to me, both male and female, who were sexually assaulted as youngsters. They bear the shame and sometimes feel guilty about their own actions and the fact that they were caught in that situation. Out of fear, or whatever the case may be, it was never revealed. Something triggers it in their lives and they had to confess to someone else what had happened to them.
When we look at the psychological profiles of victims having to bear these dramatic things in their lives, even trying to hide them in some cases, it affects their relationships with others, sometimes their productivity in the community and certainly close relationships like those with family or between husband and wife in future years. They have major problems to overcome.
We will never be able to get rid of all attacks by those who want to exploit children, but we sure can curtail them. We have a responsibility as parliamentarians, as the government today, to bring about a more secure future for many.
We are talking about ending the vicious cycle of one person exploiting another, who exploits another, who exploits another. If it means raising the age of consent to include a larger group of youngsters when they are still vulnerable, still shaping their thoughts and their futures, and putting them under a protective umbrella, that is what the House should do.
Over the past year the House grappled with fallout from the Sharpe case in British Columbia. We were reminded in no uncertain terms through this pedophile and his actions that there were some very dangerous, conniving and manipulative people out there. I believe it is essential to develop and direct the law of the land to protect our children.
It does not matter to whom we talk, consultations with police departments and prosecutors will reveal what must be done and should be done, if only the legislators really, truly and honestly want to compile that information from those two groups of authorities in our land.
Legislators at all levels of government must not shirk their responsibility to step in where society breaks down. In that respect I am very much aware of the rage out there when pedophiles and others attack our young children, as I would suggest most members would be. Far from just a casual number of offences are taking place in our country.
I know too that there are other related offences such as Internet pornography. A registry for controlling pedophiles and other forms of law that require partnerships with social services and the like are certainly required. People who fall into those categories should be consulted.
In conclusion, we are not the same society we were when the current legislation came into effect back in the late 1800s, but we as legislators are in the driver's seat. We must not let changes in society allow the moral high ground to slip away. It is our job to protect it. The bill is about protecting Canadian children. I know we all agree that it is a goal worth pursuing. I urge support for Bill C-278.