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House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was national.

Topics

Access to InformationOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

In compliance with both pieces of legislation, Mr. Speaker, the Access to Information Act on the one hand, and the Privacy Act on the other.

When a piece of information is considered personal information, the consent of the individual concerned must absolutely be obtained before it may be disclosed and made public. It is in this context that the Treasury Board Secretariat has issued an opinion to all departments, and it is now up to them to apply it as they see fit.

Air TransportOral Question Period

February 5th, 2002 / 3 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, recently Air Canada Regional announced that it was re-examining air connections to the Magdalen Islands and the Gaspé, on the dubious grounds of unprofitability. Consequently, it planned to discontinue them effective 2003.

Can the Minister of Transport tell us whether he has an action plan in mind for maintaining regional air services, those in Gaspé and Magdalen Islands in particular, and if he intends to make it public in the near future?

Air TransportOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, regional air services are very important to this government and to this parliament. That is why we have included in Bill C-26 a guarantee to maintain service for three years.

I have discussed the Magdalen Islands situation with Air Canada's President, Mr. Milton, and he has assured me that the service could be maintained, for a time at least, while we re-examine our air policy.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Before the House proceeded with statements by members and question period we were in questions and comments on a speech by the hon. member for Erie--Lincoln. The hon. member for Prince George--Peace River had the floor on a comment and I am pleased to welcome him back.

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3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, as you and I am sure those viewing the proceedings from home can appreciate, with all the excitement of question period it is kind of difficult to pick up the debate where we left off prior to question period.

Regarding the motion we are debating today with respect to the need for the justice committee to come up with a bill to enact a national sex offender registry, the hon. member for Erie--Lincoln stated in his remarks that it would be wrong to pass it without having examined all the pitfalls. He asked why we should not give the provincial, territorial and federal governments a chance to do their work. He talked of lessons to be learned from other countries. He suggested a national sex offender registry may be ineffective.

Can the hon. member tell the House how much longer innocent people, real and potential victims, are prepared to wait for the government to act and bring forward an effective national sex offender registry?

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3:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member fails to realize that the criminal justice system does not operate in a vacuum. The federal government does not act alone. We have provincial and territorial partners with whom we must and should consult.

He also fails to recognize that there is a system in place. We have the CPIC national screening system which we instituted in 1994. Its effectiveness may be questioned and we are doing that. We put roughly $190 million into CPIC in April 1999 to improve its standards. We have put in a further $2 million to track sex offenders by name and address. A system is in place. It could perhaps be improved but that is what these consultations are doing. Why should we reinvent the wheel? The justice committee functions in a positive fashion but we already have a system in motion. It is effective and we should honour it.

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3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is helpful for those viewing the debate from home. If the CPIC which we have today, had a year ago and had the year before were effective, we would not have a situation where provinces were forced to enact their own sex offender registries. The provinces indicated clearly a year ago that if the federal government did not act soon they would be forced to follow the lead of Ontario and have their own systems.

When the motion passed in the Chamber a year ago it was clear that it was unanimous. It passed by 255 votes to zero. All political parties representing all regions of the country were interested in having a national system to track sex offenders rather than a piecemeal system across the country with various provinces trying to do the best they could on their own.

Does the hon. member for Erie--Lincoln not believe the problem is that the existing system is ineffective? Does he believe the CPIC system can be made effective despite his remarks and concerns about what is happening in other countries? We need a separate and stand-alone system in Canada. We in my party believe that. It is why we have amended the motion. Does the hon. member believe it?

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3:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, the merits of a national system are something which should be sought. However we have one in place. There is no question in my mind that we can improve on it, and that is what the consultations are about.

However why reinvent the wheel? The process is in motion and we should continue it. There is no way we can move as quickly as some provinces would like, but let us make sure we do it right this time. That is the most important thing. We do not want to establish a system that will be thrown out by the courts as has happened in other jurisdictions. We want a system that will work properly for the protection of Canadians and especially our children.

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3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Erie--Lincoln asks why we should reinvent the wheel. If the wheel is square it needs to be reinvented.

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3:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure whether that was a question or a comment. We are improving the wheel. There is no question about it. It will run efficiently, smoothly and to the best of our ability and capacity.

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3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca.

I pay tribute to the hon. member for Langley--Abbotsford, the official opposition House leader, for bringing the motion forward. No one on any side of the House has done more to bring justice to the country and bring issues to the floor of the House that address the safety and security of Canadian citizens.

It is to his credit that the original motion that was passed unanimously some nine months ago was brought forward both then and today. He has been doing a tremendous job on the issue. His many contacts and people across the country with whom he is in contact on a regular basis tell him he is doing the right thing. They tell him to keep the heat on the government when it comes to the issue. The security and safety of our citizens is the primary concern of any government, or it should be. It is certainly the prime concern of the Canadian Alliance Party and our House leader.

Prison reform is another issue he has brought forward time and time again. The solicitor general has not done a good job in terms of what is going on in our prisons. The hon. member for Langley--Abbotsford is constantly bringing the issue to the forefront. Canadians need to be made aware of this and other issues in the country.

The original motion was brought to the House in March, 2001. It called on the government to establish a national sex offender registry by January 30, 2002. The time has passed and nothing has been done. We have brought the motion back to see if we can again get unanimous support for it.

The solicitor general in his comments today indicated the government would not be supporting the motion. In March it was a great idea that needed to be done. Now the government says it will not support it and it does not need to be done. How can that be?

The government has put a few dollars into the existing system to expand it and make it better, but the people who use it say it is not good enough. They say the system does not do what is needed. They say we need to respond quickly to inquiries about sexual offenders and the present CPIC system does not do that.

Last March it was a good idea to create a system. The same people are now saying the system has always existed. Why is that? It is confusing. Why would government members vote to create something and then say we do not need to because it already exists? I am not sure what message that sends to Canadians. The message it is sends to me is that the government does not know for sure what it needs to do.

When an idea comes forward from the opposition and is supported we celebrate. We celebrated the day it happened because we had put forward a motion and received unanimous consent. That does not happen often. It seems the tide has now turned and members of the government have been told to vote against us.

We need to debate the need for the registry to be comprehensive, up to date and, like any good system, accessible and speedy. The reason is that 44% of people abducted by sexual offenders are dead within the first hour, 74% are dead within three hours, and after a full day usually 91% are dead. That is a disturbing statistic. It is important that we can access the information and that it is thorough and quickly accessible. If not, it is worse than useless because we think we can rely on it but cannot.

The Canadian Police Association and the police chiefs have all said the $2 million that was put into the CPIC upgrade is not adequate. They say more needs to be done.

For the life of me I cannot understand why a government that proclaims itself to be the protector of citizens and the rights of individuals would not want to do this. Why would the government not want to have in place the best system there could possibly be, especially to protect young people in Canada?

If we as politicians and leaders cannot act strongly to protect the children of our society, the ones who are most vulnerable, the ones who cannot protect themselves, then I am not sure why we are here. That should be paramount in any of our discussions. We have to act strongly, otherwise anything else we do will be for naught.

Ontario has put together a sex offender registry. Ontario felt that what was being done federally was not good enough so it has created its own. There are 5,000 names on it already. Over 90% of the offenders comply with provincial legislation. The province has them report annually and it knows where they are.

Another strange thing is that after the sentence is finished, and all sex offenders should serve full sentences, the sex offender can ask to be taken off the registry or for the sentence to be erased. That is done in the present system which brings in another fact. We know through research that 50% of child molesters reoffend within 10 to 30 years. For example, after serving a sentence of five years an offender's name is taken off the registry. Half of the people who have that done are still a threat to society. Why on earth would we want their names removed from the registry?

Ontario has a system in place. The province felt that the government was not moving quickly enough. My home province of Alberta is looking at ways to implement a system, as are British Columbia, Saskatchewan, P.E.I. and Nova Scotia. Even if these provinces individually go ahead, the whole issue will be on how to tie information together so it is quickly accessible by whichever area of the country needs it. It may go even further than Canada. It could get into the systems used by the Americans and other police forces in the world.

Even if the provinces have their own registries and do a good job, the whole issue is how we ensure that they are connected, so that somebody in Saskatchewan who has a query can get the information on somebody who just came from another province. We do not see that happening.

I could go on at length about why the flip-flop in support, why the motion was supported last March and why it obviously will not be supported today. It will be interesting tonight when we stand to be counted in this place. I hope the members who change their vote from the last time will be accountable to somebody. I hope somebody will ask them why they have done that. I certainly would like to hear the answer.

I back up the claim by the Canadian Police Association and the police chiefs that what has been done to improve CPIC is not doing the job. The government has spent a half a billion dollars registering firearms. That the government will not consider spending a few dollars to create a system that will keep sexual predators at bay is beyond reason.

I commend the member for Langley--Abbotsford for bringing forward the motion and for the work that he does. I know he will continue to work to make the streets safer for the people of this country.

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3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this very important issue which affects Canadians from coast to coast.

If there is one important element in our justice system it has to be the protection of the health and welfare of innocent Canadians. Perhaps no other violation can compare to that of a sexual violation: rape, rape that is attached to incest, or rape within pedophilia. Those are the three categories we are talking about.

On March 13, 2001 the House passed a motion by my colleague which called for a national registry that would be in place by January 30 of this year. The motion was passed unanimously, yet the House has not seen that happen.

Should we have had to bring this motion to the floor of the House? No. The government was elected in 1993 and it has had over eight years to bring in a national sexual predator registry. I will deal with this issue at the end of my speech.

We are asking the government to live up to its commitment. We ask that it stand shoulder to shoulder with the police forces. We ask that it stand shoulder to shoulder with the victims. We ask that it do this for the women, the men and the children who have been sexually abused in their lives and also for those who I hope will not be sexually abused in the future because of laws the government will have brought in to protect innocent people.

In 1979, 7.1% of all people in our jails had been incarcerated for sexual offences. By 1989, a scant 10 years later, the number had increased to 44%, which is a substantial jump. The risk of reoffending is substantial with respect to the groups we are talking about. It is about 7% for those who commit rape, but the percentage is much higher for those who sexually abuse children.

Why the government has not implemented constructive solutions to protect the most vulnerable in our society is beyond the pale. I think it is beyond the comprehension of most members of the House.

We are asking for a commitment to be fulfilled, a promise that was made which must be kept. We want a national registry for sexual offenders as soon as possible. If the government were to bring forward legislation to that effect, I think there would be speedy passage of that bill by the House and the Senate.

I want to get into the specific issue of child sexual abuse. As a physician and as someone who has worked in a jail, I know this takes place and I have treated the victims. It is a pervasive, insidious, vile problem within our society. We have put forth the laws and rules of protection for children in our society.

With respect to sexual predation, it is critically important to have a system which invokes a very high penalty for that offence. We must also implement effective treatments for some people. The hallmarks of those treatments involve a range of holistic solutions, including education and skills training, social skills training, and the treatment of substance abuse problems.

However a substantial number of sexual offenders, particularly pedophiles, are not treatable. The government should adopt a sexual predator law, such as the law in the state of Washington. Its law defines individuals who are sexual predators who continue to victimize those who are the most vulnerable in our society. There is an incredible number. We have heard of many cases along those lines.

Our current laws are unable to deal with this problem. We plead with the government to institute a sexual predator law. Anybody who commits two separate sexual offences, one after the other, rape, a sexual offence involving a child, which includes pedophilia and incest, should be labelled a dangerous sexual offender.

That person would only be released if there were sufficient grounds to believe that the person simply will not reoffend. The Canadian public would be appalled to know that frequently pedophiles are released after they have “served their penalty”. We have a moral obligation to Canadians to keep a person in jail if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person will reoffend. If we cannot protect the children, who can we protect? It is incumbent upon us to do that.

Some would say it would violate the charter. Perhaps that argument could be made but I would argue that the charter protects the rights of individual law-abiding citizens. The charter expressly protects individuals from being violated in the manner which I have mentioned.

The law in Washington state has been challenged unsuccessfully in the courts. If the government were prepared to look at the sexual predator law in Washington state and emulate that here in Canada, the law would be consistent with the charter. It would fulfill the obligation of the protection of rights, but most important, it would protect the rights of innocent people. In balancing the rights of innocent people with those of people who have committed criminal offences, clearly we must fall on the side of protecting the rights of innocent civilians.

Individuals who have been sexually abused should have the right to the offender's health information concerning HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and the sexually transmitted diseases which the offender may or may not have. It should be the right of the victims to know the medical status of the person who has violated them.

The system must also ensure that the victim is aware of when and where a sexual abuser is being released. The secrecy that surrounds the release from prison of individuals who are sexual abusers, who are violent abusers, is beyond the pale. A victim who lives in fear for many years after the situation must have a right to know where the sexual violator is living. In the interests of fairness to the victim, the person who committed the offence should not be allowed to live in the same province or within 100 kilometres of the victim. They must not come in contact with each other. That is just an issue of fairness.

Getting to the reason the government has not brought in a sexual offender registry bill, innovation is a word the government does not understand. Innovation is something the government has been trying to avoid at all costs. Whether it is in the justice system, whether it is the sexual offender registry we are talking about today, whether it is economics or health care, the government has done everything in its power to pay heed to its polling results and how high it is in the polls. It appears to be more interested in having power for power's sake than using power for the public good.

As I said to the government last year, what is the point in having power if it is not used for the public good? What is the benefit of a 50% standing in the polls if the government is not prepared to use its mandate and its strength within the public for the public good?

What we have here is a relatively simple motion that protects Canadians. The government, at the very minimum, must act on this issue. It must also act on the wide variety of problems that affect Canadians, issues such as health care and access to health care; social program renewal; the head start program for children and prevention; economic competitiveness; education; sound fiscal and monetary policies; and the environment. The government knows the bill on endangered species is useless. Canadians care about these and many other pressing issues. They must be addressed.

I promise the House that my party, and I am sure all opposition parties, will continue to hold the government's feet to the fire. We must ensure that it does its job and implements solutions to the big problems Canadians care about.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, is the hon. member aware of any other jurisdictions in which a national sex offender registry has been in place for a reasonable period of time? Is he aware of reports on the effectiveness and efficiency of systems which might be of use to legislators in Canada?

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3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, Ontario and some of the other provinces have actually implemented registries. Part of the problem is one of competing jurisdictions. There is not a sharing of information.

The reason my colleague proposed it, and I think the House passed it, is that a national registry would actually facilitate the sharing of information to ensure that law enforcement officers across the country would have rapid access to pertinent information on an individual they are looking for or whom they have actually found.

That model could be used across the country. It is not difficult. The name, address, fingerprints and history of a person convicted of a sexual offence could be put into a computerized system. The database could be accessed by ministers of justice, attorneys general and police forces.

That is a bare bones system that would work very well from a national perspective. I hope the hon. member who has done a lot of work with children will convince his colleagues to support and implement this motion.

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3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I know the hon. member has had children on his agenda as a parliamentarian for many years. I do not think there is a parliamentarian in this place who does not share the fundamental objective we are seeking.

However provincial bickering goes on with regard to many issues. The member might be aware of some of it. Would he advise the House of the attitudes of other jurisdictions, provinces or territories? Has he seen some disagreement among other jurisdictions with regard to the content or the administration of the database? Is there a substantive area of disagreement that would have to be rectified by a national registry?

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3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I do not see any conflicts within the current system or the proposal inherent within the national registry. We need to go to the experts and the experts are the police officers. The Canadian Police Association has given the government and the public a very eloquent document which describes in detail how a national registry would work and the elements of that registry.

I would only hope the member and other members go to the police association. Police officers across the country are very desirous of leadership at a national level to accomplish this objective.

If the Minister of Justice were able to sit down with her counterparts across the country and say we will develop a national registry and ask them to work with her, she would find a very open ear. Certainly our police forces would be very grateful for it and, most important, the Canadian public would be very grateful. Perhaps, if the minister did this, she would prevent some people from being sexually abused in the future.

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3:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, my question for my colleague in the Alliance has been raised already today but I would like to hear his comments on it.

With the failure of the government to implement a national sex offender registry and the probable collapse of the gun registry that is already in existence, what would the hon. member think of the idea of using the ill fated registry with its systems, computers and personnel to track sex offenders instead of continuing with an ill thought out and ill fated gun registry of long guns owned by honest citizens?

It could be used to do two things: first, to register sex offenders and to track them and, second, as a DNA databank.

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3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, for the benefit of the House let me indicate that a discussion paper was prepared by Health Canada and Justice Canada on child sex offenders information systems which explicitly describes how a sexual offender registry would work.

The member mentioned a very important issue. The government has been hell bent on producing a national registry for guns. It is a system, as many know, that will not work, will not protect people and is costing about $500 million. If we took a fraction of that money and put it on the sharp edge of justice which would involve a national registry for sexual offenders, we would save people's lives. We would protect innocent civilians and do our job as legislators. That is something the Minister of Justice should take to task and implement right away.

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3:35 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity this morning to view a press conference by a government agency on the issue of child poverty. Members will know that this issue has seized this place long before we all came here. There has been a great deal of attention placed on the issue.

I know parliamentarians share the view that for children who live in poverty chances are that the cycle of poverty is very likely to occur in their adult lives as well. We in this place care about children.

We also have talked about child abuse many times in a broader sense than sexual abuse. We have talked about its impact on children. The House and the Senate went through the custody and access joint hearings which produced a wonderful report. I remember one of the provisions in the report was children who witness abuse among their parents were as affected as if they had been abused themselves. We have again demonstrated a sensitivity to the impacts on children.

This morning at this press conference and subsequently at an informal gathering with the representatives of the poverty coalition one of the things talked about was lone parent situations. We now have a situation where lone parents in Canada represent less than 15% of all families and yet account for some 52% of all children living in poverty.

Family issues start to come up here. It is a very linked situation. When we look at the fundamental stability of the Canadian family, when we look at the impacts on children when there is abuse in the home or when there are economic pressures, et cetera, children are usually the victims. We certainly saw that in the custody and access hearings.

Canadians should know that this place has a very large spot in its heart for children. Obviously we all win when our children grow up to be healthy, well adjusted young people with a sound set of moral, social and family values so that as they move forward in their lives they do not fall into problems, whether it be the cycle of violence, of welfare, of poverty or of other social ills.

The issue of a national sex offender registry is certainly one that we have discussed for some time. All members agree that in the discussion we had last March it was important for Canadians to know what was happening around the world, what was happening in Canada, and how we could take what we had and move it forward.

Parliamentarians in this place supported a motion to establish a national registry because we knew that the recidivism rate among offenders, among pedophiles and rapists, et cetera, was very high. It is very tragic that in society we have to be vigilant at all times for people who prey on children. It is disgusting and contemptible, but I am not sure whether or not as the previous speaker said that we should throw in jail anybody we identify as possibly doing something.

Our hearts are in the right place, but we have to understand that we have laws which have be to applied in accordance with the charter of rights and freedoms. They have to be applied in accordance with what is right. When people are sex offenders by nature or character, I do not think they were born like that. They are functions of their environment. They are functions of their family home, their relations with those with whom they grew up and the problems in that regard.

I agree with all members who spoke that we need to make a stronger commitment to addressing the serious problem of sex offenders and certainly repeat sex offenders.

Today we have a motion before the House pursuant to one we dealt with on March 13, 2001, which called for establishment of a sex offender registry by January 30, 2002, a date we have just passed.

I clearly understand, in view of the fact there is not a comprehensive, fully integrated national sex offender registry, why this issue would come up again. I applaud the opposition member for raising it with the House because it is reflective of the priorities and value system the House holds collectively.

The motion calls for the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to prepare and bring forward a bill reflecting the spirit and intent of the motion with which we dealt last March.

I am not sure why we would take the whole process back to the committee to start again. It is a little confusing to me. I have no doubt the justice committee has the talent to draft a bill. Should that be asked by the minister and referred to the committee for such a purpose, I have no doubt it could do it.

However I am not sure that is the most efficient way for parliamentarians in this place to move the file forward and to get our national registry in place in the fashion it should be to achieve its objectives.

It would be useful to review briefly some of the background to the whole question of protecting our children and what parliament and the government have done to reflect that priority. We obviously are committed to saving communities and preventing crime. Protection of our children is obviously an issue of great concern. That is why we now have a national sex offender registry. It is a registry of all convicted offenders and it is called CPIC.

Unfortunately I did not have an opportunity to speak to the issue last March, but as a member who shares concern about the protection and safety of children in our communities I want to be on record with regard to my shared concern. I ask the House to bear with me as I put forward some of this information, probably for the benefit of my constituents who are interested in my views as well.

The Canadian Police Information Centre is a computerized information system for Canadian law enforcement. It is operated by the RCMP. It serves over 60,000 law enforcement officials in every province and territory in Canada and handles over 100 million inquiries from 15,000 points of access.

When we consider the dimensions of the CPIC system clearly it is a national system. Clearly it is used by policing authorities across the country and by all jurisdictions with policing responsibilities.

The CPIC system contains millions of records on criminals, missing persons, vehicles, stolen property, registered firearms and crime scene information. It is a fairly comprehensive database. It is the primary tool used by our police enforcement officers to do work on crime scene information, to analyze criminal activities and to determine information that might be helpful in bringing resolution to a criminal act.

In 1994 the national screening system was created using CPIC. The national screening system allows agencies serving children to request local police background checks through CPIC. The background checks permit the agency to screen out potential volunteers known to be sexual abusers.

Even before we debated the creation of a national sex offender registry, there was a CPIC system which was accessible throughout communities across Canada for the purpose of screening volunteers and protecting our children. It was already used in a sense to provide a safer environment for our children.

Something I find very difficult to measure or to get information on is whether or not there is effectiveness in this. Some of my research has shown that other countries which have national sex offender registries have been unable to determine if they have prevented crimes that otherwise would have taken place. It is almost unmeasurable. It is more intuitive. I am not sure if I have heard today some evidence that these registries transfer the sort of crime prevention and protection that we seek to achieve.

Intuitively, it is the right thing to do. That is why parliamentarians supported the registry. It was important that it be there. The community thought it was something we needed. It is not a matter of having a silver bullet or that there is only one thing that we need to do to ensure we achieve the objective of full safety for our children and communities. That is not reasonable. Like most problems in society, this is complex. It means we need a multiplicity of solutions. A national registry is obviously one part of it.

I recall a line I have used throughout my parliamentary career. For every complex problem, there is a simple solution and it is wrong.

We are not looking for simple solutions. I think people who watch us on the television or watch from the gallery want to see us working in the best interests of Canadians, our children and communities. They want safe homes and safe streets. These are the themes and important areas which Canadians expect parliamentarians to address.

In April 1999 the solicitor general announced additional funding of $115 million to renew and enhance CPIC. Even though CPIC is a substantially older vintage of database, it has been enhanced and continues to grow. We have done even more.

In September 2001 the solicitor general announced that the RCMP would spend an additional $2 million on CPIC to improve its capacity to track sex offenders.

In March 2001 we first dealt with this motion. We did not wait for an unreasonable period of time to come up with some enhancements in CPIC to bring it up to the standard that members wanted to see. I do not think members are concerned whether CPIC or a national database is something we need. We do need a national sex offender registry.

The concern is whether it includes the kinds of information we need. Is it accessible to all who need to have it? Is it a tool that we can use to keep track of those sex offenders who have a high risk of reoffending?

An additional $2 million was allotted to improve the system. We have also improved the ability of police to locate sex offenders quickly by enabling the database to be searched by a combination of address and offence. These are some of the things that are included in the Ontario model as well.

Protecting our children against sex offenders is ultimately our goal and we want to ensure we achieve that goal. In 2000 Bill C-7 amended the Criminal Records Act to ensure that the records of sex offenders who had been pardoned would be available for screening purposes. This was another important addition to the effectiveness of the existing database.

In 1997, new measures to deal with high risk offenders, including sex offenders, and to strengthen the sentencing and correction regime were introduced. A new long term offender designation targeted sex offenders and added a period of supervision of up to 10 years following the release from prison. Also amendments strengthened the dangerous offender provisions in the criminal code, including requiring judges to impose indeterminate sentences on all dangerous offenders and a new judicial restraint provision to permit controls to be applied to those at high risk of committing a serious personal injury offence.

It is clear that this is a multiplicity of measures to enhance the overall objective to improve the safety and security of our children and of Canadians from repeat offenders.

In June 2000 the DNA Identification Act came into effect. It established a DNA data bank to be maintained by the RCMP. With that data bank judges may order offenders convicted of designated criminal code offences to provide samples of bodily substances for DNA analysis with the resulting DNA profiles preserved in a convicted offenders index within the national DNA data bank. Again, this is another enhancement to the overall or comprehensive approach to dealing with the need to have the information necessary on a timely basis to address sex offenders.

Since March 13, 2001, the federal, provincial and territorial solicitors general and ministers of justice have met to discuss the issue of the sex offender registry on two occasions. They will be meeting again in eight days, on February 13 and 14. Senior federal, provincial and territorial teams have met on a number of occasions in preparation for this.

They are working on such things as a common understanding of the necessary components of a registry system, the principles and objectives of such a system, and the respective jurisdictional roles and responsibilities to deal with some of the legitimate concerns that the provinces and territories have with regard to ensuring that the objectives are met in their provinces.

While this work continues, the advice of the provincial and territorial jurisdictions has been received and CPIC enhancements are further underway. Now a distinct sub-database is to be created. Current addresses will be added and a five year history will be maintained. Registration information will be added. Other identifying information will be carried such as someone who has a tattoo. The database will be searched by address and offence.

As the previous speaker indicated, a number of jurisdictions within the provinces have existing systems. The current provisions within the CPIC system and the related databases already exceed the requests or the requirements of some of those jurisdictions. It is not as if the current system is somehow so deficient that we should go back to the justice committee and start from scratch.

We have a system in place. We have a commitment to that. I think all parliamentarians share the commitment that we need these tools to do the job. We made the commitment last March. We have reaffirmed that commitment by the initiatives we have taken over the months since the House adopted the motion. There should be no illusion whatsoever that there is a parliamentarian in this place who does not support the development, maintenance and upgrade of a national sex offender registry to ensure we have the tools needed to protect Canadians, especially our children.

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3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague on this issue presented before us today. He explained at great length the famous CPIC, the registry used exclusively by the police in Canada.

I believe that what the Canadian Alliance is introducing today is something that goes further than this. What the member referred to was the power to investigate, to dig, to search in a registry in a given sector, when a sexual offence has been perpetrated against a child. Is there a file on the individual? That is what the CPIC can tell us.

What the Canadian Alliance members are calling for is a national file that could be transmitted, and that could be consulted if there were a hunch or a worry. For example, this new neighbour, does he have this type of history? That is what the Canadian Alliance is proposing.

Naturally, party rules are such that sometimes, when one does not want to be caught out, as is often the case with the Liberals, our friends opposite, one has to call out the troops to defend the indefensible, to support the unsupportable, to do anything and everything to stop any challenges or concern from the opposition. That is the role that the previous speaker played, in a great way.

I would ask him to think first, not about the crime that was committed, but instead of the crime that will be committed, not in an attempt to make reparation, but in an attempt to prevent. This is the context of the Canadian Alliance motion.

This is not the first time that we have heard such comments from this member who has a solution for everything, and the only one, and the right one. What does he think about preventing sexual crimes involving children? That is my question.

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4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Before I give the hon. member the floor, I would like to remind hon. members that cell phones are not allowed in the House. If you have a cell phone, please turn it off or take it outside.

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's question. It is certainly a very interesting one.

First, I would say that we have officials of the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies working together with their counterparts in the provinces and territories and they are the experts Canadians rely upon to protect and defend us from exactly what the member is saying. Although I am flattered that the member thinks I have all the right answers to all the issues, I wish that were so but it is not and I admit that.

However, when we talk about the issue of preventing a crime from happening in the first place it smacks of the same debate we have about immigration. People ask “Why do you let those criminals in?” They came into the country, they committed crimes and people ask why they were let in. I do not know what criminals look like when they come into the country. They do not have signs on them stating they are criminals. They may not be criminals when they come into Canada.

The member wants to argue that criminals can be profiled. We deal with this on the transport committee when we deal with airport and airline safety and we talk about profiling, but profiling by racial or other means will not be an effective way. It is a tool that we will be able to use, but again, there is no simple solution. I do not propose or suggest that there is a single way in which we can prevent this. We cannot guarantee prevention. The United States could not prevent September 11. It spends $10 billion a year on security and intelligence, et cetera, yet a horrific event took place involving people who had been legally in the United States for years. Not even their family members knew.

The member says we need a solution and that what they are proposing is the solution that would allow us to prevent crime. We certainly have the registry in place that lists people who have committed crimes. They may now be finished serving their sentences; we know they have a high recidivism rate and we can track them. That is our tool that lets us know about all the people who have committed crimes.

I think what the member was asking me was how we prevent someone who has not committed a sex crime yet from ever committing it. I just do not have the answer to that. I just do not know how a criminal can be profiled except on the basis of demographics or things like relationships with same or similar patterns. We have scientists to do that, but I am not sure whether I have heard anyone here articulate how someone's first crime can be prevented.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the hon. member. He talked about the CPIC system, what it is and how effective it is. The searchable criteria on that system are name, address, offence and age. The Ontario system has 18 searchable criteria. They include: build; facial hair; facial hair colour; hair colour; hair style and length; eye colour; police jurisdiction; race; scar description, length and type; skin colour; tattoo location and class; height and weight; and a recent photograph. This information is updated annually.

I understand that the federal government could have this system immediately at no cost. I would like to ask the member why he would not look at a system like this, which would help protect our children, and put it in place.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, that is a very good question. Being a resident of the province of Ontario, I am aware of Ontario's system. I am also aware that this system has not been in place for very long. Quite frankly it is something that was developed very recently.

Yes, within the province of Ontario there are the resources to be able to do all of the things the member said, but having said that, let me say that the federal government currently is meeting with its provincial and territorial counterparts and is looking at these things.

Clearly the more criteria and data we have, the better we will be able to hone in on things. I would think that this would be a shared objective. There is no indication whatsoever that the Government of Canada has any interest in not making this the best possible sex offender registry we could have to ensure that we have the best chance of meeting our targets.

I thank the member for putting forward a list of various criteria. I am not an expert but I certainly do know that the principal elements within the CPIC system, which have been developed for well over a decade, are the principal criteria. They are in place and have been used very successfully in addressing some of the policing requirements, but we can go further and I will grant the member that. We can go further and I think the government supports that. That is why over the past four years more than $3.5 million, I believe, has been invested to continue to update that CPIC system.