moved that Bill C-215, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibited sexual acts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that I have risen in the House to speak on this bill. The basic premise of Bill C-215 is to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 years of age.
The bill has been introduced into the House for the fifth time now and it is the second time for debate. None of those times of course resulted in the bill becoming a votable item on the agenda in the House. Needless to say I am disappointed that the bill, which is aimed at protecting children, would be deemed non-votable by members of the subcommittee on private members' business.
I first would like to acknowledge those who have fought relentlessly in their efforts to protect children and in particular those who have really sought to raise the age of sexual consent even higher than what is proposed in the bill, which is 16. Some even have deemed it necessary to raise it to the age of 18, with which I have to agree. However, I will bring to the attention of the House and to the public at large some of those who have really fought hard for this.
First on my list is Focus on the Family. Dr. Darrel Reid is the chief director of Focus on the Family and has been very much aware of the political inhibitors to issues like this and others that are out to protect children.
Another organization that has struggled for years and has probably put out more material outlining why things have gone the way they have with legislation regarding the protection of our children than any other organization I know of is the Canada Family Action Coalition, Mr. Brian Rushfeld. My hat is goes off to him too.
Also the Canadian Police Association has been consistent in its delivery of the need to increase the age limit. The hands of all police officers and social workers have been tied. They know many children are at risk but they cannot do a thing about it because the so-called age of consent has really been difficult for them to get around. Some have resorted to other means in trying to protect children, but unfortunately the law does not work to their benefit.
I would also like to acknowledge the Canadian Chiefs of Police and in particular, Chief Julian Fantino of the Toronto Metro Police Department. Chief Fantino has been instrumental in bringing this issue to the attention and focus of the police departments and the different agencies, those that have come together to help fight the whole issue of child exploitation. Chief Fantino has travelled the world looking at other jurisdictions. He knows what is happening worldwide, and is probably a leading expert on enforcement when it comes to child exploitation laws. Again, I want to acknowledge Chief Fantino.
I would also like to acknowledge the tens of thousands of Canadians who have signed petitions over the years. They have sought to have the age of consent raised since I have been in Parliament. I delivered this message on their behalf to Parliament that they wanted to see something very significant happen in the laws that would protect children. This so far has fallen on deaf ears.
There are another probably three groups of people that I would like to acknowledge and thank. Journalists from every media who have carried profound stories of child abuse exposing the shortcomings in the present law. Phenomenal articles have been written and programs have been aired over television and radio about child abuse and exploitation. Information is there which makes it very clear that there is a need for change.
I would also like to acknowledge the justice ministers from the various provincial governments and concerned politicians who are now pushing for change. I know that presently in Calgary the justice ministers from all the provinces are meeting and will be meeting with their federal counterparts. This will be one issue that will be debated and discussed. I can only hope that common sense prevails here because this is long overdue.
Those sitting in the seats of power across the way have had ample opportunities to make this change and have failed to do so, but here is another opportunity. I support the endeavours of the federal government Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General, who will be meeting with their counterparts in the provinces, to put this issue on the table and make it happen, make it reality.
I would also like to acknowledge one other group here. Information, as it flows, comes from various sources but the most heart-rending of all stories are those from the children who have now become adults and who were in abusive situations at the hands of predators with evil intent. Their stories really have kept this momentum to raise the age of sexual consent. Their stories are the ones that are most profound and should have the greatest impact on what is about to happen. They should have an impact in Parliament where, while there is room for strong debate on these issues, there has to be some action. I hope their stories ultimately will be the ones that will push the government to do something. I commend those who have suffered abuse for their courage to tell their stories openly and publicly.
How did we get to this point of such a low age of sexual consent? That is a question that many have asked in the past. Some of it is rather fuzzy as to why this happened. At one time, before 1987, the age of sexual consent was 18. How did it all of a sudden get dropped dramatically to age 14?
In 1987 the Mulroney government, the Conservative government of the day, reduced the age of consent for sexual activity from 18 to 14. It was no longer criminal to engage in sexual activity of various kinds with youngsters between the ages of 14 and 18. Since that time the Liberal government has made no attempt to change this law, but I suspect that things are about to change. Hopefully it will see the light and adjust this to protect our kids.
One might ask how the current law hurts our children. First, the papers have been full of stories of predators attacking our kids. These are only the known stories and they hit our newspapers on a daily basis. I do not think there is a member in the House who does not have some situation in his or her riding that reflects the abuse of a predator on a youngster under the age of 16, 15, maybe even 14, and many even younger than that.
It is not to say that raising the age would eliminate predators. That is another issue for another day. I have introduced a private member's bill which will be subject to a one hour's debate on that in the future.
There are many predators out there. Their intent is to put themselves into positions of trust and work their way into positions of authority. What happens then is that they are sitting in a situation where we have our most vulnerable and they are able to attack them. Unfortunately they are not treated harshly enough. The average sentence for a pedophile is just over a year. That is the average. What does a pedophile do? He attacks the young, the vulnerable. That is appalling. Yet that is what has happened.
One of the high profile cases to which I want to relate, and many do, is a prime example of what is happening in our society. I am speaking of John Robin Sharpe, a pornographer. He likes making movies of little kids, distributing and selling them at a profit. This is his forte in our society. Back in August this man, after being charged previously, was charged with indecent assault and gross indecency. The allegations involved a boy who was 12 to 13 years old at the time. Mr. Sharpe had befriended the boy some time back in 1979. It takes a long time for things to come to light sometimes, especially when we see the impact of this kind of attack on our children. It takes a while for them to come to grips with these things. There were other victims as well and it required a lot of follow-up investigations.
I have been a police officer myself for 22 years. I had cause to assist in some of these investigations while working in the major crime section of the Calgary Police Department. I know what kind of resources and special training it takes to work with youngsters who are subject to this kind of abuse. It takes a lot. The resources are never enough because this crime has become more insidious. That is why we must take these characters out of our society for a long period of time so that our children would be much safer.
Another problem is how this current law affects and hurts our children. Agencies are loaded with all kinds of work and they cannot keep up with all the complaints coming in. As a result there are some predators out there who are not apprehended, not detected and unfortunately they are victimizing others.
How else does that law hurt our children? Unfortunately there are organizations and individuals out there wanting more liberalization in the law. I could go on and on. I could read from the bill what kind of offences are involved here: everything from pimping youngsters of 14 years of age to subjecting them to degrading sexual acts for pornographers. It goes on and on. By raising the age of consent the bill would impact on numerous sections of the Criminal Code.
I trust, hope and pray that the provincial justice ministers and the federal justice minister reach a decision on raising the age of consent.