moved that Bill C-333, an act to establish and maintain a national registry of sex offenders to protect the children and communities of Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, it is with great regret that I am speaking to the bill today because this is a private member's bill, for those who do not quite understand the emphasis on private member's business, and the fact is that the bill was refused to be made votable by a committee of the House of Commons. That means that the bill will never be voted on and the only time I get as the initiator of the national sex offender registry is a 15 minute speech today. That will be the end of it.
Therefore I have some apologies to make to people around the country who so earnestly wanted a national sex offender registry. I have to apologize to them because it will not happen even though it was committed to be developed by the Liberal government, not once but twice.
The bill itself was modelled after a bill in Ontario known as Christopher's law. The biggest apology I can offer on behalf of the federal Liberal government is one to Jim and Anna Stephenson, whose child was abducted, raped repeatedly and murdered by a known pedophile. The model of Christopher's bill in Ontario came from a great deal of what they and others have done in Ontario. The Ontario legislation has actually been quite successful. I may try to get into that in a very few minutes.
The problem here is that the legislation I tabled in the House was virtually identical to the legislation that is so successful in Ontario. We have had two commitments from the government. First it said it would implement a national sex offender registry by January 30, 2001, and that did not happen. Then it later said that it would implement it somewhere around November 2002. That will not happen. Government members talked a lot about CPIC, an information system for police in Canada, but that is not a sex offender registry. Even if the government developed software to implement a registry, it still needs legislation to mandate that sex offenders report and so forth. Not only did it not attempt to draft legislation, it completely ignored it. Therefore, the commitment that the government made for a national sex offender registry, not once but twice, was never, ever intended to be fulfilled.
We are here today with legislation that will basically go into the garbage after today and many people will wonder why we will still have problems with sex offenders. They will wonder why these problems occur and cannot be curtailed. The reason is that the government is just not prepared to move on a national sex offender registry.
I want to apologize to the Hon. David Young of Ontario, who said that Ontario was pleased that we were developing this on a national level and very pleased, and rightfully so, that this very same legislation was implemented in Ontario and was so successful.
I want to apologize, I suppose on behalf of the government, to the Alberta solicitor general, the Hon. Heather Forsyth, who was very supportive of this as well. Heather stated “I am, however, concerned that no timeframes were established to implement these changes. I can assure you that I will be monitoring the progress of the establishment of a national sex offender registry closely and intend to continue to urge the Solicitor General of Canada to move quickly to implement it”.
The surprise should not be there. There were no timeframes because the government never intended to do it in the first place. On behalf of the government, I guess, through me to the Hon. Heather Forsyth of Alberta, let me say that it just will not happen and that is unfortunate.
I could go to all the other provinces, but in Saskatchewan Chris Axworthy said the same thing. He said that he was pleased the federal ministers had agreed to bring forward legislation to support a national registration process. They said they would do but they did not.
In Ontario the Canadian Police Association stated:
On behalf of the 30,000 front-line members of the Canadian Police Association, we are pleased to convey our support for the creation of a National Sex Offender Registry. The Canadian Police Association is firmly on record in seeking a registry to assist in the investigation and apprehension of repeat sexual offenders.
In all my time in the House of Commons, and in all the time I have left remaining here, I do not think there ever will be anything as disappointing as this. I fought for four years and received success on the national victim's bill of rights. I fought for about two or three years to get a special committee to look at the drug problems in Canada and managed to get that. We are working on that now.
However this legislation was important and it was not an onerous one. In fact, it was not legislation with which the government could have had a serious problem. It was just a plain sex offender registry.
What would this registry have done? It would have been used by police only. It would have recorded addresses, changes of addresses, changes of telephone numbers and the whereabouts of sex offenders. It would have kept an up to date registry. The legislation would have mandated that sex offenders report to the police if something changed. That was it. That was all it took in Ontario for it to be 95% successful. The number of sex offences in Ontario today are less of a problem.
All the federal government had to do was look beyond the fact that someone in the opposition brought this up in the House of Commons and listened to the common sense of the common people. It could have said “If this does a little to help prevent the serious sex offences, then maybe we should look at it and maybe we should undertake it”.
This is a sad day for everyone. Since the government will not apologize, I must do it for the government.
We are likely to hear someone on the other side say that the government is working on a sex offender registry, that it is making changes to the national police information system and that it will be there to protect us. Yes, it is working on amendments to the software. That is nice. However there is no guarantee that sex offenders or pedophiles who have been released from prison or who are presently out on the street will report further changes in their personal situations. In fact that will not happen and the information will remain unchanged for five, or ten, or twenty years or for life. All that had to be done was to mandate by law that any time these offenders changed their personal situation they had to report it or face penalties.
Having been involved with the prison system and the business of the solicitor general for 10 years now, I have seen the damage sex offenders can do. I have seen the frustration that has been experienced by the police because the information is archaic, or not available or cumbersome to retrieve. All it would have taken was a little of money, and not very much I can assure the House, to make some software changes. It would have taken no money to implement the legislation. For the life of me I wonder why we even deal with the frivolities that we seem to deal with these days in the House.
When it comes to looking at the rights of individuals maybe that was the government's problem. Maybe it thought it was about the rights and freedoms of sex offenders. That is the concern the government usually has. However the province of Ontario has implemented a registry and there has been no charter challenge. It has not been a problem.
Every solicitor general and police organization in the country has been in support of the project. I know of no organization in Canada that has opposed the national sex offender registry. There may be one or two but the vast majority of Canadians have agreed with the concept. The stumbling block has been the Government of Canada.
People like Jim and Anna Stephenson who have done so much to try to get such a small change should not give up. But for the ignorance in the House of Commons of what a sex offender registry is we would already have a national registry. But for the ignorance and resistance of politicians afraid to put a foot forward for fear of offending someone's rights we would not still have sex offenders on our streets without knowing their names or where they live.
I conducted a study of the number of people who change their names while in prison so that when they get out on parole they have new identities, new licences and new qualification certificates. My study found that of the many who changed their names in prison virtually every one was a sex offender. That is no coincidence. There is a reason for it. In many cases the reason is to prey on people again.
A national sex offender registry would ensure that the moment these people were out on the street they would immediately have to report to the police any changes in their vital information. If they moved anywhere in Canada they would be required to show where they lived. If they moved within a province they would be required to disclose changes in telephone numbers, where they lived and particular circumstances. If they had no changes to report they would still need to report every year. If they did not do so the police would have a valid reason to think there was a problem and could thus anticipate and avoid difficulties and problem situations that would otherwise arise.
I hope government members who speak to the bill do not stand and say I am full of rhetoric. I hope they do not say “Yes, we are putting a national sex offender registry in place. We have fixed it up and the hon. member for Langley--Abbotsford is wrong”. A sex offender registry which requires software to drive it is nothing unless we have legislation to mandate the reporting. That is the gist of the whole thing.
I will not give the issue up. However times are running short in the House of Commons. Before I leave I hope to someday be able to stand here and say I finally convinced the government there was something to the issue. I hope someday someone on the other side will say I was right and that the government should do this. I hope it does not take another high profile situation or another child like Jim and Anna's to get the government in gear. That would be a shame and a travesty.
There were a lot of good people who worked on this project. I am very sad that it did not come about. I am equally sad that the government did not understand what was behind it.