moved that Bill C-314, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to be here today to lead the first hour of debate on second reading on Bill C-314, my second draw on a private member's bill. To date my focus on private members' business has been the protection and safeguarding of Canadian children. This is a topic for which I feel very passionate, and I work hard to protect children in Canada.
My first private member's bill, Bill C-321, requested that an amendment be made in section 163(1) of the Criminal Code. It stated:
When a person has been convicted of an offence under the child pornography provisions, the court would be authorized to order forfeiture of anything by means of which, or in relation to which, the offence was committed.
This justice themed bill would allow federal, provincial and local police officers to confiscate any equipment or tools used by child pornographers and prevent these tools from being reused or redistributed to other dangerous predators.
I am happy to report that the federal government incorporated the essence of my private member's bill, Bill C-321, into justice Bill C-15A. It received royal assent before the House in December 2002. It is to this level of all-party, non-partisan co-operation to which I appeal for this present bill today, Bill C-314.
For those who do not have a copy of the bill before them, Bill C-314 also deals directly with the safety and protection of Canadian children. Bill C-314 is an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act. It would require that adults travelling with children under the age of 16 to produce identification for these minors before boarding a plane. When we looked into this issue we looked at all angles of transportation and this was one part of the Canada Transportation Act that we felt we could target directly in a private member's bill. Therefore the bill deals with air traffic travel only.
Presently there is no requirement to show identification and adults can board domestic flights with children without being questioned as to guardianship or custody. This requirement would be a preventive measure to child abduction. Although it would not stop child abduction completely, it certain would inhibit a predator's plans.
The genesis of this private member's bill is a classic grassroots effort. A constituent, Ms. Connie Bootland, apprised me of a serious concern she had at the time that a five year old girl went missing from Lethbridge, Alberta. Ms. Bootland was travelling with her own daughter at the same time and her daughter was the same age. While law enforcement teams were desperately searching for the missing child, Ms. Bootland was boarding a plane. She was alarmed when nobody asked for proof of custody or identification of any sort for her daughter while a child of similar description was missing. Ms. Bootland told us that even when she insisted on showing ID she was waved off.
Presently any adult can board a domestic flight in Canada with a minor with no questions needed to be asked. This is a serious loophole, especially in cases where it is non-custodial parent taking the child on a flight possibly clear across the country and away from his or her guardian.
With the rise of Internet relationships between minors and adults, this gap in security should be taken advantage of.
A while ago the member for Medicine Hat and myself went down to a border crossing in my riding, Coutts--Sweetgrass. The immigration and customs officers indicated to us that at that border adults show up at the border expecting to meet people at the border coming from somewhere in Alberta. This happens more often than not. We know of these cases but we do not know of any cases where it happens domestically where somebody can meet somebody on the Internet and set up a meeting.
In the era of post- 9/11, security concerns for all citizens are at the forefront of Canadians' minds. Should the security of children fall between the cracks? No. This private member's bill would help strengthen our protective systems for children.
Upon further investigation of the security loophole, I discovered that the very requirement I am presently lobbying for already exists in both international air flights and when crossing the U.S.-Canada border by car. It is considered standard operating procedure for adults to provide identification or proof of custody when boarding an international flight with children.
It is standard operating procedure for adults to provide identification or proof of custody when crossing the Canadian border to the United States with children. Why then is it not standard operating procedure to require adults to provide identification for children when boarding a plane within Canada? Why does the safeguard exist when travelling from our country and not exist when travelling within our country? It is for the implementation of this safeguard that I appeal for the House's support.
Let me now turn to the terrible advantages this loophole provides to predators. More than 40 million people use the Internet, a number projected to rise to one billion during this millennium. Leading search engines have indexed over 500 million web pages and stats indicate that approximately 3.5% of all these web pages are pornographic.
A quote from the National Post on August 7, 2001 revealed that Canadians were found to be the fourth ranked provider of child porn images to Internet newsgroups, the form of Internet linking through which most hard core pornography is shared.
I am sure all my colleagues, as well as most Canadians, realize that the Internet is extremely easy for both children and predators to access. The time is long past when simply being at home protects our children. With a push of a button or the click of a mouse, our children are exposed to the worst type of devious seduction and entrapment.
Agnes Fournier, a member of an Interpol specialized crime unit, states “The Internet is the most significant factor in the sexual abuse of children”. It is this accessibility that gives the pedophile predator the opportunity to trap unsuspecting victims.
With this promise of online contact between minors and strangers, it would be easy for a predator to purchase plane tickets, travel to a child's hometown and board a plan with him or her to anywhere in Canada. Without this amended safeguard in place, the predator would be asked no questions and waved through just as Ms. Bootland was with her daughter.
Today the legal age of sexual consent is 14. Therefore a 40 year old adult could trick a 14 year old child into a sexual exploitive relationship. This 40 year old predator could lure this minor, for example, on a plane in Vancouver and fly to Halifax, and parents would find themselves powerless to stop it. If, for argument's sake, predators wanted to cross the Canadian border to the United States or fly to a different country, they would be stopped at the point of departure, questioned and required to provide identification or proof of custody for the minor travelling with them. This type of safeguard forces the predator to think twice about the risk of being apprehended and in turn delays or stops the predator's plans.
I want this safeguard in place within Canada. As I stated earlier, the bill would not stop abductions altogether but it would at least hinder the plans of would-be predators and help prevent Canadian families from the anguish of losing a child.
We all know the John Robin Sharpe case where he was acquitted for possessing short stories of sexually exploitative relationships between adults and children. B.C. Supreme Court justice, Duncan Shaw, stated that they had “artistic merit”. While these stories of literature may have included an introduction, a body and a conclusion, the subject matter is violent, coercive and has one specific goal in mind: to normalize sex between children and adults. I do not accept that these stories have any artistic merit at all.
Predators use these stories as tools to convince children it is okay to perform sexual acts with adults. The stories are often fairytale like in nature and use childhood characters to make the children feel comfortable in giving in to the predator's demands.
I stand before the House today to ask for support to mandate protection to combat predators. I believe Bill C-314 would be a preventive security measure to safeguard our children.
On average, strangers abduct 66 children every year in Canada and over 400 children are taken by a non-custodial parent. The loophole for domestic air travel must be closed. It is my hope that this requirement would act as a deterrent for non-custodial parents considering taking their children to other areas of Canada without the guardian's permission.
A strong supporter of my bill is Child Find Alberta. It was the first child find organization in Canada. Five volunteers founded it in Calgary in 1983. Its main purpose is to assist in the search and recovery of missing children and to reunite them with their legal parent or guardian. They do this through education, prevention techniques and locating children. Child Find Alberta also offers other services to prevent future abduction and exploitation of children.
This past summer, Child Find Alberta incorporated new tools to assists its agencies to increase caseloads and ultimately find more children. It used a new software program to help facilitate case management. The time saving software allows more time to work on each case, quick, accurate searches of many files at the same time, and creates instant missing children posters with one click of the mouse. These tools help prevent future abductions and locate children when the worst case scenario is realized.
That non-profit charitable organization supports Bill C-314. It believes, as I do, that steps must be taken to help prevent child abductions and that safeguards must be put in place within Canada to protect our children.
I implore my colleagues in the House to support the bill and put in place a safeguard that is already standard operating procedure when travelling from Canada. I ask all members to please make the amendment standard operating procedure within Canada.
I look forward to comments from other parties. I certainly am seeking their support. I think the issue is just a small piece of a larger puzzle, a larger complex issue with regard to protecting our children. It specifically deals with air transportation which is a good place to start. If the bill is approved by the House and sent to committee, it will be an opportunity for parents, the transportation industry and others to come forward with ideas on how to make this work and on how to implement it . We must keep in focus that the one thing we are after is protecting children and making families and children safer in Canada.