Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my friend and colleague from Surrey Central.
I want to address the statements the parliamentary secretary made in his speech. I have some sympathy for him being forced and obliged to give a government position that is so weak and effete in its intent.
As my colleague from Calgary Northeast mentioned, many of us have been in the House since 1993 and we have been trying to get the government to act on something that should be very basic, yet it refuses. This deals with the safeguard and protection of children in the face of sexual abuse and predation.
I want to address the comment made by my friend, the parliamentary secretary, about the case of Mr. Sharpe, who was, as he quite correctly said, convicted of an offence under the laws of our land. The reason we are putting forth an alternative and a tougher position in the case of Mr. Sharpe is that he did receive a conviction but the penalty did not fit the crime. That is the problem. At the end of the day, Mr. Sharpe paid but he spent a very small amount of time in prison. In fact he was let out after a small period time and the parliamentary secretary knows that.
That is the crux of the matter. One of our concerns with the bill is that this is not a case of where somebody stole something from somewhere else. This is not a young person or any person who has made a mistake. Anyone can make a mistake, that is part of being human. However the type of creature with whom we are dealing, to which this law applies, is a serial predator and sexual abuser of children. That puts these types of individuals in a class by themselves I would think.
At the end of the day our objective is to protect the most vulnerable people in our society against those often violent repeat predators and sexual abusers of little children. In its blunt form, that is what this is all about.
What we would like to see, in the case of Mr. Sharpe and individuals of his ilk, is that they will not be released into the public until the authorities are sufficiently confident that they will not reoffend. One of the deep and pervasive concerns that many of us have, as I said before, having worked in a jail, is that individuals who we know will reoffend and sexually abuse a child or even an adult, are let out. A singular failure of our judicial system is that it allows individuals who commit these heinous crimes out of prison knowing full well that they will reoffend.
We know we cannot treat this lightly. We know we cannot put individuals behind bars forever. That is not the mark of a free and fair society. However, on balance, surely in the case of children, we have to err on the side of being conservative and on the side of protecting children.
I personally hope the government will, under the bill, modify it and make changes so that at the end of the day we will have a mechanism to assess those individuals, who are sexual abusers, violent individuals or pedophiles, to see if there is sufficient cause for concern that they will reoffend before we let them out of jail. We must be sufficiently confident that they will not reoffend before we allow them out of jail.
When I was working in a jail on a Sunday night I remember being called to see a person who was going to be released the next day. The person had a very long rap sheet for extremely violent offences. As the physician responsible I was asked to see the person because he was acting up. I went into his jail cell and started to interview him. Within three minutes the person attacked me.
We managed to get the person into a psychiatric institution. The day after I went to the head of the jail and asked how we could possibly have a system where an individual with a long history of repeated violent offences who had been incarcerated was going to be let out into the unsuspecting public to commit another violent offence and perhaps kill somebody. Within three minutes of merely interviewing him, the person attacked me. What kind of a system is that? The response was, “That is the law. I cannot do anything about it”. That happened before I got into politics.
It points to a deficit in our system which we desperately need to fix. It is our responsibility to give our police and judicial system the ability to protect innocent civilians. We can all agree that has to be a fundamental job and responsibility of our judicial system. The problem is we do not have that right now. We are trying to offer the government a way in which the protection of innocent civilians can be put first and foremost. Specifically we are dealing here with children.
I personally would like to see it extended to other groups, to the violent offenders, to the sexual abusers, and also to the pedophiles.
There are two somewhat related areas with which we have not dealt. One is an international problem concerning how we deal with pedophile rings, people who travel on pedophile journeys to Thailand and Colombia. Many countries have laws on their books that are supposed to apprehend and convict individuals who travel on these journeys as a group of pedophiles to sexually abuse children in some of the poorest and most impoverished countries of the world.
I hope the parliamentary secretary can take back to the justice minister a commitment on his part to work with the international community to better track, apprehend and convict individuals who are involved in pedophile travel rings. We have to do a better job at that. Very few people in the world are ever convicted for that.
Another related issue involves prostitution. There are pimps and organizations that sexually abuse and enslave young women and some young men into the sex trade in Canada. The judicial system has been unable to deal with those individuals. Many of these people are immigrants to Canada, and some of them are illegal immigrants. Be that as it may, these individuals are still human beings. We need a system that penalizes individuals who are profiteering from sexually and physically abusing individuals involved in the sex trade.
Those people often are swept under the carpet and ignored, but they often live lives of virtual slavery in many of the large cities in our country.
I ask the hon. member to please take that back to the justice minister. Perhaps he could incorporate it in a way where we could go after the pimps and the gangs that are involved in this type of sexual slavery of individuals.
In closing, the government has an opportunity to work with parties in the opposition and indeed some of its own members to put forth a law that will protect children, that will get tough with individuals who commit these offences, that will ban conditional sentencing, and that will no longer allow the spurious argument of “for the public good” for allowing individuals to possess child pornography. We fear that is going to put an enormous loophole in the system which will enable individuals to possess child pornography.
We want tougher penalties. We want to stop conditional sentencing. We want to ensure that people who are a danger to children will be incarcerated until there is sufficient evidence that they are not going to be a danger to society. We would prompt the parliamentary secretary and the Minister of Justice to listen to our constructive solutions for the betterment of all Canadians.