Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to take part in this debate. I congratulate the Bloc Quebecois member for his very intelligent comments. These are remarks that present many important perspectives.
I also want to congratulate the parliamentary secretary who has delved into this issue in detail and has made the informed comment that we should engage and encourage our provincial colleagues to take this issue up.
I want to turn now to the mover of the motion who has been, in my view, relentless in his pursuit of this issue and who takes the issue very seriously. He comes to this place with a perspective that is important, as a frontline police officer having dealt with child victims I suspect, having heard that in his commentary. I have great respect for what he is trying to accomplish here.
The bill has been before the House in the past, which is again a tribute to the member's persistence. As was stated previously in the debate, whenever we look at the Criminal Code of Canada we have to look at all the implications. It is somewhat like a game of dominoes. It can have implications that may not have been completely anticipated. I know that is not the desire of the mover of the motion.
I want to make a brief comment on the subject of private members' bills. We have repeatedly seen, throughout the history of this place, private members' bills that come forward that have a great idea, that are intended purely for the improvement of society or for the improvement of a certain situation and the government will tear those ideas limb from limb and dismiss them. Then a short time later we will see the bill come back under the name of the government where the mover might then be a minister and it suddenly becomes a great idea.
I am not suggesting that will happen here but the commentary from the parliamentary secretary at least indicates that there is a willingness to examine this issue.
I also want to address a situation that was referred to by the mover of the motion from Calgary, Bill C-15, which was passed in 1989, and delved into the subject matter of the age of consent. Under the Progressive Conservative government that bill replaced prior unsuitable legislation. What was left out of the commentary by the member from Calgary was that the bill in essence prohibited adults from engaging in virtually any act or any kind of sexual contact with boys or girls under the age of 14.
The bill also made it illegal for adults in positions of trust or authority to have sexual contact with minors between--and here are the key words--the ages of 14 to 18. It did not raise the age of consent.
Therefore, by simply stamping the age 16 in place in all those sections of the Criminal Code there is a danger that a very naive, unworldly and vulnerable youth age 17 might fall outside the parameters of the hon. member's bill.
We have heard the sad tales, and there are many, of people in positions of trust, those involved in the church or in the school system, foster parents and, sadly, even family members and parents, who take advantage of youth who are now under the age of 18, not 16.
We want to be very careful when we look at changing sections of the Criminal Code not to narrow further the ability of the prosecution to proceed with charges when positions of trust are involved. It is always important to look at the whole perspective here.
I again commend the emotion and the diligence with which the mover of the motion has brought to this debate. It is tragic beyond belief that there are sexual predators out there.
Sexual predators can be found in any province, any community, any corner of this country. We have all heard of many infamous cases such as at Mount Cashel in Newfoundland and at the school for boys in Shelburne in my home province of Nova Scotia. We know there are sad cases involving native schools where young people were preyed upon. Maple Leaf Gardens is another institution in which horrible instances of abuse took place. Those are terrible cases where individuals were preyed upon, sadly, by persons who they should have been able to rely upon for protection. However the opposite occurred.
The Goler case in Nova Scotia is one that motivated me to bring forward a private member's bill which would in fact expand the parameters of the Criminal Code to allow a judge to put in place prohibitions about attending dwelling houses. Currently it specifically mentions schools, pools, places where children frequent, but it does not include dwelling houses where the majority of sexual assault cases occur.
The life altering and lasting implications and the damage that results to young people being abused is shocking and abhorrent to all Canadians and all members of Parliament. We have heard time and time again the horrible events that can occur in a child's life. What better place is there than the Parliament of Canada to address those issues and address any shortcomings that might exist? What higher calling, what higher place could there be to protect children from this fate than the House of Commons?
Sexual predators I submit very firmly are not always interested in sex but are interested in power, control and severe violence. That reinforces the worry that parents have each and every time their children leave home.
Another sad phenomenon that occurs is where victims, in some instances in attempt to regain power over their own lives, go out and become perpetrators. That is a very sad implication from the effects of having been abused as a child.
Some provinces, including I believe the province of the hon. member who moved the motion, have taken initiatives in terms of protecting our most vulnerable. The Ontario government, for example, needs to be commended for its decision to launch the first ever sex offender registry of its kind in Canada. Each sex offender in Ontario must register within 15 days of being released from custody. The same applies to those serving sentences in the community. The file will contain the offender's address, phone number, physical description, aliases and list of offences. Such information is critical to policemen if they are to be able to afford the protection for the children who might become victims.
Chief Fantino was mentioned in the remarks by the mover of the motion and the good work that he is doing on behalf of protecting children in the province of Ontario and specifically in Toronto.
Offenders sentenced to less than 10 years must report their whereabouts for 10 years under the Ontario registry, and offenders sentenced to periods of incarceration longer than 10 years will remain on the registry for life. This is the type of bold, proactive and, in some instances, harsh legislation that we might need to protect children.
The Ontario government cares about public safety and is reacting to the concerns of communities in that province. Its law was passed in honour of Christopher Stephenson, and the law is often referred to as Christopher's law. Fourteen years ago young Christopher was abducted at knife point in a Brampton mall, sexually assaulted and murdered by repeat sex offender Joseph Fredericks.
That is the type of case that sadly is the motivation for this type of change in the law, and I know the type of motivation that is behind the mover.
It is absolutely gut-wrenching that something like that must happen before politicians, present company included, and legislators take notice. However these examples illustrate how important it is to take these initiatives that can prevent lifelong suffering, murder, exploitation and the terrible instances of sexual assault and intrusion into young people's lives.
We talk about making sentences longer. These sentences are life sentences for young people when they have been victimized.
I mentioned the anomaly of adopting the bill in its current form. I know that the hon. member might be open to making certain amendments to it. I am glad to see that this debate is taking place. I look forward to seeing the bill proceed through the chamber and being taken to the justice committee where it could be discussed further.
The hon. member for Calgary Northeast has brought forward the legislation with the best of motivations, and I congratulate him for that.
He knows and I know that more can be done. As a police officer, he already has done a great deal in this area and I have nothing but respect for what he is trying to do. I am pleased that the bill is back before Parliament. Let us make the necessary changes that we need to ensure that there are real consequences for those who break the law and those who prey upon children.