House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was protect.


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5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, as someone has mentioned, it is a sad day when we have to stand to debate this kind of issue in this nation of ours. It is sad because there are the defenders of pornography and child pornography. We as legislators need to have the starch in our bones to make a strong stand against it.

I want to talk for a minute about what pornography really is. I have not heard that discussed and the definition is not in the legislation. In fact, what I am going to talk about is not a legal definition, and I do not suggest that it should be considered as a legal definition, but I want to talk about what it really is because we sometimes fail to recognize that.

Pornography is visual or verbal exploitation of the decency, privacy and well-being of a human body, soul, mind and spirit. It is exploitation of a human being, whether it be a child or an adult.

What is child pornography? I have here a quote from Hansard , in which the member for Palliser said earlier in the debate at another time that:

--the position that I take, and I believe would be shared by a majority if not all of my caucus colleagues, is that if it has not specifically hurt a minor in the production of it, if it is created by people's visual imaginations and if the main purpose of it is not simply about pornography and sexual exploitation, then under the laws people do have a right to their own imaginations and thoughts, however perverse the member and I might think they are.

Let me say one more thing in addition to that. Every crime and every action starts in the mind but is not contained or ended there.

I am concerned that this is the extent to which many people will look at pornography, as in fact has happened in the John Robin Sharpe case. The right to produce and to have was defended, but that is because they do not understand that it is never ever the case with child pornography.

Child pornography is the most hideous form of pornography. It is usually a graphic product produced primarily by an adult, with an innocent child as its primary victim. Indirect child abuse happens because of child pornography. I would define indirect child abuse as that which is used to desensitize other children and of course recruit them. It is used to excite other pedophiles.

If we talk to those who have counselled, worked with and dedicated their lives to helping people who have lived through child pornography and child sexual abuse because of this, we will then understand that it is never produced to keep private. It might be the thought for the moment that it would remain private, but it does not end up that way. Those pictures and stories have to be passed to someone else in exchange for others because we have to keep changing the pictures in our mind to remain excited. That is the way human beings are built. They are not going to sit and look at the same catalogue of old pictures all their lives and never share them with others. That fallacy has to be shot down. It has to be understood.

It is indirect child abuse because it is used to excite those who prey on children. It is indirect child abuse because it is used to perpetuate abuse and pornography. It is indirect child abuse because it is used for the recruitment for further pornography, drugs and the sex trade. It is even direct child abuse when a child is used in its production. It is the worst form of child abuse.

There are many kinds of child abuse. There of course is the lack of providing the necessities of life and that is sort of mentioned in some of the legislation. There is abusive discipline, whether it be physical, verbal, emotional or psychological. They are abuses of a child and certainly we would speak against them. There is even, I submit to the House, what is probably one the largest categories of child abuse going on in this nation in this day and age, and that is simply the lack of discipline, when we do not teach our children how to grow up and how to mature.

Bill C-20 is about child protection at all these levels, but it is still so woefully inadequate. It is inadequate because there is no adequate definition of pornography. So without an adequate definition of pornography, I am told, there have to be certain defences put in there. What has happened here is that the government has taken the old artistic merit clause, has sort of done away with those two words and simply has replaced them with the words “the public good”.

I have a hard time imagining at any time that drawings such as those John Robin Sharpe was allowed to retain in his possession could ever be for the public good or even ever be considered to have any kind of artistic merit.

There have to be ways in which we can define what would constitute a medical use of illustrations, et cetera. If we are so worried about not being able to have educational materials, we can describe that and we can define that. We do not have to leave it to some nebulous decision on a liberal judge's bench as to whether or not it has educational, artistic or public good to it at all. We are not doing that in the bill. I think we are missing the mark by a long way.

We are missing it when we come to dealing with the sentences. The sentences have been mentioned many times, but it must be said over and over again that it does not matter if we put in maximum sentence of 100 years for child pornography, child abuse or sexual exploitation of a six month old baby. It does not matter. What really matters is what the minimum sentence is, because in this day and age, a day of full prisons and liberal wishy-washy thinking in our country, we do not give sentences worth handing out. We do not enforce what we give. We turn offenders loose. It would have been much more effective if in fact the sentences had been raised on the minimum rather than the maximum.

Then there is the refusal to address the age of consent. We have in the bill the protection in regard to an exploitative relationship by an adult, but we all know, if we are honest with ourselves at all, that there is room for both approaches and that the age of consent should have been raised to 16 so that we do not continue to allow the sexual activity between children and adults to be legal and then have to go to court to prove whether or not there was some sort of exploitive or trust relationship. This is woefully inadequate and we in the Canadian Alliance have been calling over and over for this change.

Another very major shortcoming is that the bill did not address at all the need to change the requirements for how a case is presented in court. In this day and age when a computer is filled with hundreds of thousands of images and we have to process every one of them to present them in court, how ridiculous can we get? We do not do this in any other kind of law. The bill did not address that. I will just say that the legislation needs to go back to the drawing board for some common sense and to have some teeth put into it.

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5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to sit in the House all day and listen to the debate on Bill C-20. I have heard the debate, mainly from our side, but I have also heard some of the concerns from members on the other side.

Bill C-20 is very complex. None of the provisions in the bill would make it easier to prosecute sexual predators.

There is something I want to get straight here. I hear from the other side the words common good and how this bill outlines the common good defence. Perhaps members have short memories. There is no substantial difference between the defence called the common good and the previous defence called the community standards test which was rendered ineffective by the Supreme Court in 1992. All the government has done is recycled it and tried to shove it down our throats as a bill that shows it cares about our children. I take exception to this. I find it disgusting that it would use this method to do it.

One of the main concerns expressed by everybody in the House since 1993 has been the safety and well-being of our children. We have heard time after time in throne speeches that the government's number one priority was the safety of our children. Yet it has done absolutely nothing.

The Sharpe case was in 2001. I listened to the minister stand in the House and say that we were fearmongering, and that we should not worry as the government would address this. The government said it would do it before the summer was over and for us not to be concerned, that the minister was on top of it. That was in 2001. That was when the minister made his promise in the House and here we stand today.

The government told us to have faith in it. It said that it would tighten this piece of legislation up, take it to committee and study it. It has done that for months and nothing has been done. It will do nothing to protect our children.

I am not a father and I am not a parent. However, I have spent a lot of time in the bush and I know that animals in the bush look after their young far better than the government looks after the youth of Canada. That is a disgrace. The animals will stand up for their young. They will not throw them in front of us. That is what this country has come to. We now throw our children in front of us. That is a shame.

I stop to think about how great the country was, where all young people had the right to grow up safely and we have taken that right away from them. They now walk in fear. Parents now take our children to and from schools. They are not allowed to play in playgrounds and so on. The government comes up with a piece of legislation like this saying that it will address these issues.

This will address these issues all right: the government knows full well that this will be challenged time and time again in court. However, it is easier for members on the other side to sit and blame the judges and to say that the judges should not have interpreted it that way, knowing full well when the piece of legislation was passed that they were leaving it to interpretation.

These laws should not be open to interpretation. They should not be based on judge made laws, for it is the members who are held accountable, not the judges. It is time government members did what they were sent to do and that is to correct these issues. But no, instead, they will march to the dictatorial demands of the front bench and of their supreme dictatorial ruler. They will vote in accordance with that and not protect our children, but rather protect their minister who has failed in every measure.

The government has been found wanting in the public eye and it has been found guilty. The government, in our eyes, been found useless when it comes to issues such as this.

This will be a major issue in the next campaign because people are fed up. We have been in the House and seen the thousands and thousands of petitions on this issue, yet where is the government? It comes in with a piece of legislation called Bill C-20 that does absolutely nothing.

I want to give some examples of what I am talking about. James Paul Wilson, charged with possession of child pornography, assault and obstruction of justice received a one year suspended sentence. He was in custody for nine months prior to sentencing so that was taken into consideration.

Leonard George Elder was convicted of sending hundreds of pornographic photos of children across the Internet. The Manitoba Court of Appeal overturned the nine month sentence and said that Elder should instead serve a 15 month conditional sentence. A slap on the wrist, that is what we are talking about.

While this was going on, Kevin Hudec downloaded hundreds of images over several months showing sex between adult men and girls aged five to nine years. He received a one year conditional sentence that he can serve at home. At the same time, our caring, sharing government was jailing farmers for selling their own products. Yes, I know where its priorities lie and it certainly is not in the protection of our children.

I do not know how much more a person can say without getting ticked off around here. Police forces have come here from all over Canada with concerns. Liberal members cannot sit over on the other side and say that they have not heard from them because they have. The police have told them that they are handcuffed with this type of legislation, that they need money to fight what is going on, particularly in regard to child pornography, and they go away empty-handed.

I know that some of the members from the other side have seen the videos that the officers showed us. They were sickening. They were perversion at its height, yet still the Liberal members do nothing. Why? Because they are told not to make it an issue. They are told not to take a stand that is not the same stand as the minister. I find this unacceptable.

I do not understand why the people in the members' constituencies do not get up in arms over this. These are children we are talking about. We are not talking about 14 and 15 year olds. The videos we saw showed two and three year olds, yet the government members do nothing. I do not know what has to be done to light a fire under their feet. Maybe they have to get fired, then they will finally wake up and say they have seen the light. No, they will go back at the next election and ask for forgiveness. They will say that they made a mistake, they will not do it again, and to please elect them, but by then it will be too late.

They must remember these children. As another hon. member said in the House today, they are victims for life. Their sentences are for life. It will impact upon their marriages and education. It could impact upon whether they will be drug addicts or not, whether they will be prostitutes or not. It will be an ongoing problem until we stamp it out. If this is not a good enough reason to stamp out child pornography then God help Canada because I am certain the Liberal government sure as hell will not.

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5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and contribute to this important debate on Bill C-20. As one of the few mothers in the House I can say that the protection of our children is partly professional but mostly maternal.

I have recently been communicating via mail with my constituents on related issues, such as sexual predators and child pornography. It is clear from their responses that they think that the government is not doing all it can to protect our children. In fact, 83% said the Liberals were doing a poor job. Unlike the government, they have made their intentions clear. They have not made the simple issue of child protection complex, bureaucratic and ineffective.

I will read to members and all Canadians some of the comments from my constituents on these issues. In many ways they say it better than any of us can. Before I read their comments I would like to share the survey results. Their sentiments on the issues are often close to unanimous. Some 81% think 20 years is a good minimum sentence for a pedophilia conviction; 86%, or almost 9 out of 10, think the age of consent should be raised to 16 years of age from 14 years of age; 89% say Internet pornography raises the risk of child exploitation; 87% say those caught with child pornography should be included in a national sex offenders registry; and 62% think the age of two people engaged in sex is an issue even if they are both consenting.

If members think my constituents are tough on crime, they are right. Members should see what they think of the justice system that coddles the people who commit crimes. Close to 98%, that is almost unanimous, think prisoners should not be allowed to vote; 88% think voting is a privilege, not a right; 94% think our current prison system gives prisoners too many freedoms; and 72% think increased prison privileges do not decrease the chance of reoffending.

I am not sure my constituents could be any clearer in their opinions. If they are so clear, why is the government being so vague? The government has watched for nine years as Canadian children go through another generation of abuse. We never heard about that achievement in the throne speech, did we? Children rely on adults around them to teach them, nurture and protect them. Unfortunately, not all adults provide our kids with safety and security. How we deal with those offenders is directly correlated to the priority we place on our children and their safety. I received many comments from my constituents on these issues.

Nancy said:

The 20 years is a lot of tax money spent on housing and caring for the criminal. The death penalty may be a more economical solution. Morally, it may be harsh, but I'm sure this would be a great deterrent”.

Anne Marie said:

We need to get pedophiles off the streets and start getting serious about protecting our children”.

Another wrote saying that the age of sexual consent would be better at 18. A Saskatoon resident wrote:

If we do not protect our children from predators, then what kind of parent...government...society are we? I have very strong opinions in this that of bringing “capital punishment” to those who prey on children”.

One person wrote in with comments telling me that we still have much work to do. That person wrote:

This attack on pedophiles is the modern equivalent of the medieval witch hunt. You shouldn't be fuelling the fires of hysteria. In my opinion, the age of sexual consent should be lowered from 14 to 12 years. Once a girl starts to menstruate, she is biologically an adult. She should know it and act as though she knows it. Do you believe that there is some magic age at which a female suddenly starts to act responsibly? Stop treating teenagers as children, I say”.

That was one of my constituents and I think those statements need no further comment. Thankfully, the majority of those in our communities are of the opinion that children deserve protection.

I would like to address what I feel is this bill's largest fault.

Those who threaten our children are often seizing opportunities afforded to them by their proximity to the environments of our kids. Thus, one would think that removing that access would be the first priority in protection. Unfortunately, the bill still allows for conditional sentences.

Conditional sentences are a joke. Criminals, especially the ones who prey on children, should serve their sentences in prison, not in the community. There are criminals like Karl Toft, whose list of victims numbers in the hundreds. Today, he happily cruises the streets of suburban Edmonton. Do not worry, he has promised not to do it again.

Sex crimes invade one's personal security unlike any other crime. Those who commit these types of crimes are shunned, even within the prisons. They cannot even get respect among thieves and murderers.

There is a good cause for minimum sentences. Sex offenders are among the highest reoffenders we have. They are often quite intelligent, and this makes them more dangerous. They do not tend to make silly mistakes as often, and this makes catching and prosecuting them even harder.

This bill is a timid first step for Canadian children. It is complex, with cumbersome provisions that will not make it easier to prosecute sexual predators or keep them off the streets. Law enforcement still does not have the tools to deal with child pornography cases effectively or efficiently. Children must be protected from abuse. The failure of the Liberals to prohibit all adult-child sex leaves children at risk.

The Canadian Alliance has demanded the elimination of the artistic merit defence. The Liberals have finally recognized its danger. Unfortunately, the Liberals have replaced the existing defences with a single defence of the public good. There is no substantial difference between this defence and a previous defence that was rendered ineffective in a 1992 Supreme Court ruling. Higher maximum sentences for child pornography and predation will not be effective unless the courts enforce them.

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5:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will ask members this question. Have they ever had an old horse that was on its last legs and its ribs were sticking out? It did not matter what was fed to the horse, it could not gain weight, its haunches were showing, it had these big knobby knees and the more it walked, the more it stumbled and the closer it got to its last days.

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5:40 p.m.

An hon. member

It sounds like Lightning.

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5:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

One of my colleagues says it sounds like Lightning. Actually, it sounds also like the government. I believe the government is stumbling. We see it in almost every aspect of the government today. We saw it during question period and afterward in a number of different areas. We see it in areas such as the gun registry and the fact that the minister himself has gone outside and has paid a company to produce a report that he hopes will be favourable to his department.

We saw it in discussions about GST fraud. This is a government that for 10 years has been unable and unwilling to even deal with the issue of people defrauding the general public of taxpayer dollars.

We saw it during the last week or so with the government's inability to take a position on Iraq that anyone could possibly understand.

We see it in agriculture with the APF and an agriculture minister and a department. It is within two months of a new seeding season and they do not have the programs in place. They have had two years to put those programs in place.

We see it with a public works minister who is busy appointing committees and getting MPs to delay the release of reports, trying to delay as long as possible an inquiry into the government's contracting and its actions there.

We also see it for the one who would be the leader, the member for LaSalle—Émard, who was in Alberta this past weekend. I thought it was the height of hypocrisy to hear him speak about how he wanted to put money into the military after he gut it for 10 years. He wanted to call the government to accountability on the gun registry, when he was the one who had been funding it to the tune of a billion dollars over the last 10 years.

In Bill C-20 we see another example of a government that is completely disinterested and unable to come up with good legislation. Today we have heard from perhaps two members out of 170 on the government side. They do not seem to even be interested in coming to discuss the issue and debating it with us.

I guess the government's best response today, and I do not even know if I should go there, was from the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot. He said that his biggest fear was that this law would somehow interfere with freedom of speech.

I found it interesting that the best example he could use was Romeo and Juliet . I find it typical of small “l” Liberals. They take an extreme example and then try to make a rule from it. In this situation we have heard someone talk about child pornography, then equate that somehow Romeo and Juliet is tied to that.

Police officers who came and spoke to us did not talk about Romeo and Juliet . They talked about small children and babies that were forced to have oral sex with adults. They did not talk about Romeo and Juliet . They talked about small children who were being raped by adults. They did not talk about Romeo and Juliet . They talked about small children being held down while adults masturbate on them.

It makes me very angry when I hear someone say that the issue in this legislation is freedom of speech. It is not. It is child abuse and child exploitation. There is no excuse. What do we have to do? How long do we have to talk about this? How long does it have to go on before there is action on this issue?

We try to keep this as clinical as possible and keep it as far away as possible. However, when the police come here and show us that material, we know that something needs to be done. Perhaps that material needs to be shown at a Liberal caucus meeting some Wednesday. Maybe then they will realize these are real kids who are being destroyed by these people.

What is wanted? When we go to Canadians, the first thing we hear is that they want a clear definition of pornography. We are the people who are supposed to legislate the law in the land.

It is good to ban child pornography but we need to do something with it. What is it? I will read the past definition of what child pornography, the defence for it and how it changes.

The previous version of child pornography, as found in subsection 163.1 of the Criminal Code, reads:

--(a) a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means,

(i) that shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of eighteen years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity, or

(ii) the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of eighteen years; or

(b) any written material or visual representation that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act.

The condition is it has to be an offence under this act.

The defence, which everyone is getting more familiar with all the time, is that where the accused is charged with an offence under the subsections, the courts shall find the accused not guilty if the representation or written material that is alleged to constitute child pornography has, those famous words, “artistic merit”, or an educational, scientific or medical purpose.

The changes are actually fairly small in terms of the definition. We are just adding a part to it. At the end of the section, we will simply add that it also includes:

any written material the dominant characteristic of which is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act.

I want to point that out because it does not say that it has to be just anything that involves this.

The defence is changed to:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the acts that are alleged to constitute the offence, or if the material related to those acts that is alleged to contain child pornography serve the public good or do not extend beyond what serves the public good...

My colleague, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, said this earlier. There is no definition of public good in the legislation. We need to talk about that. The Supreme Court has already ruled on this. It has extended the definition of public good beyond the old definition. The public good includes issues that deal with religion, administration of justice, administration of science, literature, works of art, or other objects of general interest. It looks to me like the government has actually broadened what will be included in the definition of child pornography, not narrowed it.

We have asked the government time and again to ban this stuff and get rid of it. We do not need it around. Then it comes back with a bill that, according to a five to two Supreme Court decision, will broaden the definition of what will be allowed and broadens the number of exemptions for this material. Canadians want a clear definition. They do not want to be fooling around, they want this stuff banned.

Canadians also are asking for a ban on child pornography. Every member in the House who has been paying attention to their constituents has probably brought one of these petitions forward. It clearly states, “Your petitioners call upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia or sado-masochistic activities involving children are outlawed”. We have seen hundreds and hundreds of these petitions and tens of thousands of signatures. The government must at some point begin to listen to its people.

The public demand, brought about partially through the Sharpe case and through widespread public revulsion, is that people want this material banned. They are not interested in artistic merit or anything else with regard to this material. The average person just wants rid of it.

We also hear that police officers need help. We heard it in the media and we heard it when they came here to talk to us. They brought some of this material for us to see, and they need help in a couple of areas.

First, they need help in dealing with the evidence. Presently they have to go through every image they confiscate. Some of these collections, from what we are told, have 200,000, 500,000 or 750,000 images. Police have to take the manpower to sit and go through every one of the images, detail them and ensure that every one of them fits the criteria that the government set out. We say they need some help with this. They need a situation where they do not have to go through this material ad nauseam.

Presently when police seize a huge quantity of drugs, they take one packet of it and that constitutes a fact in which people believe that the rest of the shipment contained the same material. We need that sort of thing for our police.

Second, and I will have more to say on this later, is Internet issues must be addressed for the police. This material is international in nature. There needs to be an international initiative taken to get some control of it. Russia, I am told, is one of the conduits for it, but this is just a banquet table for perverse appetites and something needs to be done about that.

What people really want is protection for their kids in what is seen as a crazy world.

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5:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a few comments on this bill. I will share my concern and also the disappointment that my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance and I have today in the failure of the government to properly act on behalf of the children in our country. The government continues, in a way that can only be described as mystifying, not to do all that can be done to protect our children.

The bill has been described as timid and indeed it is. When those who would violate children are far from timid, the response from the government is not a deterrent at all. It is complex and cumbersome. It will make it more difficult to prosecute sexual predators. Police forces around the country who are committed to protecting children and whose years of training have provided them the ability to protect the most vulnerable in our society will not have the tools they need to be there for children.

We said earlier today and will continue to say that children have to be protected from abuse at the hands of all predators. We shake our heads and wonder that the Liberals fail to prohibit all adult-child sex, leaving children exposed to unacceptable risk. We join Canadians across the country in asking the question why.

We raised the issue of this defence called artistic merit significantly enough that it finally got through. I can remember in the early days of discussing the bill when the Liberals continued to defend something called artistic merit as a way of excusing predatory sex between adults and children. I remember hearing in the House so-called responsible Liberal members of Parliament using concerns such as cultural considerations. We asked time and again, whose culture is promoting such a thing as this and whose culture needs to be defended from predatory adult-child sexual relationships? We never did get that answer.

Finally the government backed down and changed the words “artistic merit” to something called the “public good”. I will be looking with somewhat morbid interest to the day when some MP or possibly some member of the judiciary tries to defend predatory adult-child sexual relationships with some kind of defence called public good. If that day ever comes, indeed it will be a sad day.

We asked for higher maximum sentences for child pornography and for predatory behaviour. Those have been received, but judges have the option. There is no truth in sentencing here. A sentence may indeed come down and the public will read about it in the newspaper and think that something has been done. Without truth in sentencing being enforced, the public will not be aware that perhaps the person will receive a conditional sentence or perhaps be allowed to serve out their time at home.

These are ways in which our children are being failed, such as the reluctance to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16 years that we have asked for. As I travel the country from coast to coast there is hardly a time I do not raise this issue in a public meeting. I have yet to have a citizen come forward and say, “Fourteen is good enough. Sexual exploitation between a 50 or 60 year old and a 14 year old is actually okay and we should defend it”. I have yet to run into a person who defends that, except for Liberal members of Parliament.

It is astounding. We are supposed to be governing at the consent of those who are governed. Where were the federal Liberals given the consent of the citizens we govern to keep the age at 14 years for children being protected against adult predators? We want it raised to 16 years. Show us the letters. Give us the evidence showing that the public is demanding that the age at which adults can exploit children be kept at 14.

Twenty years ago we would not have been having this debate in the chamber. It would have been unheard of. That is why we must stand on guard for the children of Canada and not allow these incremental advances that give excuses to adult child sexual predators to be made. We cannot allow that erosion to happen. It already is happening in our society. The language is beginning to change.

It was not that long ago that the American Psychological Association changed the definition. It used to call this type of predatory adult-child sexual relations as being pathological and listed it as a pathology. It has now changed that. It is only listed as pathological if it is really bothering the adult who is perpetrating it. The language is changing.

We listened to some of the arguments. Now it is not being called child-adult predatory sex. It is being called intergenerational sex. Once the language begins to change, the behaviour will begin to change in even greater amounts. Predators will sense a weakening of the will of society itself. However there is no weakening in society but only a weakening among those who are governing. We must not allow these incremental changes to take place.

As one of my colleagues just mentioned, we have heard arguments to the effect that it is all right as long as the child is not being harmed. This is another grotesque example of how we are incrementally lowering the standards which we use to protect children.

There are groups out there that have been arguing for a long time that child-adult sex is actually acceptable and normal. There is a group called NAMBLA, North American Man/Boy Love Association, that argues that child-adult sex is actually acceptable and normal. Heterosexual groups are also making themselves known. They argue that heterosexual relations between adults and children are fine and healthy and should be encouraged. Those groups are out there now making arguments and we are starting to slide backwards into the abyss from which those arguments come. We cannot allow that to happen.

Look at the arguments of those groups that I mentioned and the direction of the psychological associations. I predict, and I hope this prediction does not come true, that if we do not draw a firm line as we are suggesting, the day will come when people will stand in the House and say that this is a bona fide sexual orientation and that it should be protected under sexual orientation legislation. That will come upon us because it is being talked about already by other groups outside the House.

One of my colleagues quoted Solomon, one of the wisest men on the face of the earth and also the most loving man who walked on the face of the earth. That man said to his own colleagues, “Let the children come to me. Do not harm them; do not be abusive; let them come to me”. That man also said that for anyone who caused one of those little ones to stumble, it would be better for that person on the day of judgment to have a millstone wrapped about his neck and that he be dropped into the ocean than what would actually come upon him. That was said by the most loving person who ever walked on the face of this earth.

We cannot allow the continual erosion of the standards we use to protect our children to happen. We must draw the line. I appeal to the governing members of Parliament to change their minds on these issues which we have addressed and to raise the standard back to where it should be so that when we sing our national anthem we can truly say to our children that we stand on guard for them.

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6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to enter into the debate.

To carry on with the theme of the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla and the citation he raised, it was also said, “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you have done unto me”. That is also very much a lesson to all of us.

All of us here in the House take children and the protection of children as a special obligation or at least we should take it as a special obligation. We should realize that failing to do so will be partly how we will be judged as an organization in the years to come. Did we get the job done? Did we do what was necessary to protect our children?

The Liberal government's track record to date on the protection of children has not been good. I think of the efforts by my colleague from Langley—Abbotsford who brought forward a motion demanding that the House move ahead with the sex offender registry. That is just one of many things we could talk about, the Divorce Act and many others things.

Specifically on that one issue, the member for Langley—Abbotsford brought forward the proposal in a supply day motion. The House debated it and we passed the motion. We basically forced the hand of the Liberals because they never would have done it on their own. They finally brought forward a sex offender registry of sorts but it does not apply to anybody who is in jail. It is not retroactive. From here on they will be more concerned about making sure sex offenders are registered so we know where they are, what they are doing and making sure they are not reoffending and so on. However the ones who are already in jail start off with a clean slate.

It is ridiculous. It shows a lack of understanding of the chronic abusers of children who need to be monitored and need to be protected from themselves. More important, we need to protect the innocent children. We could not even get that right. Even after we passed a motion in this place to protect children, it got watered down. The Liberals use weasel words. They do half measures, half steps and in the end the provinces pass their own legislation because the federal legislation is not effective. There is a hodge-podge and a grab bag of solutions from coast to coast in different provinces because the provinces gave up. They waited for the federal government to show leadership and it has not done it.

Another example is the law we passed that deals with people who travel abroad to have sex with children. That is seen as a problem and the international community condemns it of course. We all stood here and condemned it so the government passed legislation saying that people who had these so-called vacations for sexual purposes with children would face the courts, face the law and face the wrath of the Canadian parliamentary system.

We warned the Liberals when they brought in that legislation that it was completely ineffective. We told them it would not work. How many prosecutions have there been under that law? How many convictions? There have been zero convictions. How many prosecutions? Not a one. Why? Because they are half measures, watered down, half-baked ideas that do not put the children first, but put so many obstacles and so many steps in front of law enforcement officials that they have not even tried to prosecute somebody on something that is, according to the United Nations and other international groups, a chronic problem in places like Thailand and other countries. There has not been one prosecution and not one conviction. The record is abysmal.

When we think of priorities, things the Liberals could be doing and should be doing, there should be emphasis on law enforcement and intercepting pornography. We have talked a lot about that today. What has the government done? It has eliminated the ports police. The ports are where people bring pornography into the country, and the government took the police out of the system. Now there is a conduit for pornography to come into the country. The government thinks nothing of it. It says it is not important enough.

The record on this is abysmal. It is especially abysmal because we are dealing with child protection. The Liberals cannot point to a single thing they have done. They cannot even get the Divorce Act right, which is a simple thing. We talked about protecting children.

We had an all party committee that gave a report called For the Sake of the Children , which had specific recommendations on how to protect kids in the case of family breakdown. The Liberals cannot even implement the For the Sake of the Children report in the House because they water it down with half-baked measures and little timid steps and say that maybe they can think about it. Nine years I have been in this place and they are still talking like that: It is just pathetic.

I do not know why they do not take some bold steps so that maybe a year or two later they could say they would have to have to back off on those steps a little, that maybe they were a little too strict, or maybe they would have to fight with the courts about it and find proper way. They do not even take a measure. They do not push it in the courts. They do not challenge court decisions. They sit back and wait for something to happen as if it will solve itself. Instead, the problems continue to get worse. It is a sad state that describes well Liberal inaction, lack of vision, lack of purpose, and no sense of the role of a parliamentarian, which is first and foremost to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

We are supposed to be grateful because Bill C-20 is at least tabled in the House and is at least called child protection. I am not convinced that it actually is going to do the job of protecting children. It is a timid first step. It does not boldly go where no one has gone before; it is a timid little step. For example, they are saying that, and the exact wording is here, they are going to change the law to protect kids who get abused when someone is “in a relationship with a young person that is exploitative of the young person”. They are saying that this will be an extra tough rule that they will bring in now.

There is already a law against people abusing positions of trust and authority. We already have laws on the books to prosecute and throw people in the hoosegow when they do that sort of thing, but they are just not effective. They are not working.

My colleagues have read out examples about people who abuse the trust of children, who spread pornography that is showing more abuse of children, who are recruiting people into this pornography business. Who knows what effect this is having on families and children? We can only imagine. What do they get? They get conditional sentencing.

I think we just throw that phrase out expecting people who are watching to understand what conditional sentencing is. Conditional sentencing, let me say to folks, means that a person does not go to jail. If a person has been watching pornography at home and spreading it around to other Internet users, conditional sentencing means that the person gets to go back into that home and spend more time there. That is the penalty. It is no penalty at all.

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6:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Go stand in the corner.

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6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Yes, it is like putting on the dunce cap and standing in the corner for a minute and having someone say “I hope you won't do it again”. There is no teeth in it. There is no message in it, and this is the important thing, for abusers of children. Often the victims spend a lifetime ruined. Often they are generationally ruined and become abusers themselves. It is a horrendous cycle. There is no thought given to that. The abuser is just given a little smack on the hand and told not to do it again, to go home and think about it. It is just inadequate. The message it sends is really inadequate, hopelessly inadequate, because it sends the message that we do not take it very seriously, that we wish they would not do it but there are no consequences.

We also have said that one of the first steps we should take is to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16. I want to quickly relate a story that was on BCTV news approximately two or three years ago. There was a 14 year old girl, and who knows what kind of problems she was having, who got into a situation with an exploitive, middle-aged guy who was 45 to 50 years old. He moved that 14 year old girl, and a 14 year old is in grade 8, into his home. The mom and dad finally found out where their 14 year old girl was. They tried to intercede and change the situation, in which this little girl was not even grown, not only not sexually mature but not even grown up yet, and the 50 year old pervert had her in a house. The police told the mom and dad they could not even go in there and talk to their daughter to see if she was safe. Why? Because the law says 14 years old and it is free game for the perverts.

So the police were not even allowed to let the parents in to talk to their 14 year old girl to see if she was okay, to see if she would have liked to come home, to ask if she was plied with drugs or abused in any way. They could not talk to that young girl. That young girl was a victim and who knows where that victim cycle ended. Who knows where the victim cycle ends?

Let us do some constructive things here. We have been talking about this. Let us get a sex offender registry that works. Let us get that done. Let us get child pornography, the vile child pornography, off the streets. Let us not just talk about banning spam from the Internet like the industry department is doing, but let us actually ban the Internet transmission of pornography.

Let us deal with changing the age of consent from 14 to 16 and make real changes possible, quickly, to help police. Let us then put the tools in the hands of the police and the judges, with firm sentences and with the assets and tools that are needed by police forces from coast to coast.

If we do all of that, and we can do it quickly, then we will have a handle on actually providing the protection for children that this bill does not address.

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6:15 p.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to this bill, which I consider rather an important one.

As colleagues in the House will know, the issue of child exploitation is one that without a doubt is of concern to all Canadians and certainly to all parliamentarians.

We want, to the fullest extent possible, to ensure that we have legislation that above all not only gives the impression of valued protection for the most vulnerable members of our society but also at the same time provides an assurance that in fact good legislation that is written here and the proposals made by the House in fact meet the test of ensuring that children are protected.

I thank all colleagues from all parties of the House who last year at this time participated, for the second time, in a forum to deal with the vagaries and the rather emotional side and reality of child exploitation. Compliments of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canadian customs officials, the Toronto police force, under the very capable hands of Paul Gillespie and of course his predecessor, as well as the Ontario Provincial Police Project P's Detective Inspector Bob Matthews and Dr. Peter Collins, it became very clear to all those who did attend the meeting that Canada indeed has a serious problem.

At that time it became clear to many of us and we issued an issues and options paper, in which many members of Parliament agreed that the fundamental concern to arise out of the Sharpe decision was that the issue of the community harm test was set aside. In her wisdom, Madam Justice McLachlin of the Supreme Court suggested at the time that the risk to children, however small, would nevertheless be outweighed by a charter challenge. I take it that Madam Justice McLachlin at the time thought, of course, that this was an appropriate course.

The Minister of Justice has rightly and correctly identified what I believe to be one of the most fundamental and key deficiencies in that ruling, and that is to ensure that what the public expects as a good and as a right of a good to protect must also be included heretofore in any decisions by the court.

Clearly I have spoken on previous occasions about the tensions that exist from time to time between the courts, the justices in the country and of course decisions that are made here in the House of Commons, but I take it that this is an acceptable, proper, appropriate and timely compromise.

As members of the House know, last month Toronto police issued what was in fact a view, in conjunction with Project P, that less than 5% of those who have been charged or who have been alleged to be involved in a child pornography ring from the United States have to this point been convicted. I suggest and submit that it is a matter of enforcement. It is one of the reasons that I as a member of Parliament, with many members on this side of the House, have taken the initiative and also have talked about the need for more coordination, for combined forces, if we wish, a strategy to ensure that we put the weight of all enforcement agencies toward making our good laws work.

Members across the way and in our party also understand, as do most Canadians, that the laws themselves are very strong but that perhaps the laws are insignificant or fail the test of protecting children if we cannot find a better way of enforcing them.

I think one of the most serious problems we have is to try to educate the judiciary, the crown attorneys, et cetera, as to how to combat child pornography. In the last round of bills, I was also very pleased to see Bill C-15A, which I voted for, with which for the first time a provision on Internet luring was put into legislation. In fact, in my community and in communities across the country that piece of legislation has been used on more than one occasion. More needs to be done and there is no doubt that I give full compliments to the intent of the House, which is to ensure that we keep our legislation modified and up to date.

However, I believe much more work needs to be done. It is interesting that on this issue the House, in my view, need not divide itself. We can always say that there is need for improvement and I am willing to talk to any member of Parliament about all the issues we have put forward: mandatory penalties; issues dealing with the police and the crown lacking the necessary resources to ensure the appropriate investigation and prosecution of child pornography and related crimes; that crimes receive the appropriate penalty; and that this becomes a priority in light of the harm it does to children. Of course we understand this because it is a harm that has no boundaries. It is an infinite harm.

A child who is exploited is a child who ultimately continues to be exploited in the long term. Martin Kruze is a young individual from my community who was assaulted by people who were in a position of authority. The Criminal Code already covers that. Martin brought his story forward. There have been countless stories, not necessarily with the belief that legislation can always cure these problems.

We have to recognize in the House the necessity of providing effective and timely enforcement to our enforcement agencies, whether that be the RCMP, the OPP, the QPP, or whoever, to ensure that we have a modicum of protection for young children, particularly those who represent, in essence, the future of our country.

I have concerns about other areas that we need to address in the options and issues paper that was presented in April of last year, issues that arose in part out of the Sharpe decision, both the one in 1999 and the one again much later. However I believe there is an opportunity for us to consider that attacks against children are nothing less than a hate crime. What they are doing is in fact targeting children and their inability to protect themselves. There are people in our society who believe that if they cannot be caught that it is somehow a licence to do far more damaging things.

The second issue we raised had to do with the need to ensure that we apply a community standards test similar to the Butler decision. I am reading the proposed legislation and it calls for a community harm or community good standard. I compliment the minister on that because I think it will be important to clarify the decisions and the differences that we are seeing in legislation.

It is not my job to disparage the Supreme Court of Canada or anyone. It is quite to the contrary. It is to find ways in which we can make this a much easier task.

I urge the House of Commons to consider perhaps relaxing legislation dealing with some of the Supreme Court of Canada rulings, for instance in Stinchcombe, which said that in order to address someone who is exploiting children on the Internet, rather than having to get a warrant, which takes two weeks, to seize the evidence and then to have someone catalogue 100,000 to 200,000 images, that we use the same standard that we would in a drug case. A simple sample would be presented and it would be sworn in as evidence, which would obviate the need to deplete the resources of enforcement agencies. I think that is an area on which we should be holding a summit in this Parliament and certainly on the Hill to ensure that all police, crown attorneys and judges have an opportunity to deliberate on this very important issue.

It seems to me that we have in many respects nothing less than goodwill toward protecting our children. We must ensure that our legislation and our enforcement procedures are consistent with the modern world.

To that end, I encourage the Minister of Justice to continue to improve what is known as the category of lawful access, to ensure that police forces and agencies across the country have that ability. In fact, this Minister of Justice and previous ministers of justice have signalled the importance at various conferences around the world, but we need to ensure that the sophistication of those who are using the Internet to attack children, and ultimately the attack is permanent and leaves permanent damage to a whole generation of children, is combated using proper, up to date technology.

It is important for us as members of Parliament to speak about the resources that are necessary. It is not just a question of co-ordinating and creating a combined force or combined strategy. We need to get serious about the amount of money needed to do this. It is an important line item in my view in terms of the budget.

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6:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Don't hold your breath.

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6:20 p.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

I hear someone calling from the other side. I ask hon. members to understand that we are all on the right side on this issue. When it comes to children no amount of debate or division will be tolerated or accepted in an environment where we have to work together. If this is a step in the right direction, then let us keep the momentum going.

I call on my colleagues in the Alliance, in the Bloc Quebecois and in the NDP to approve policies and ideas that are there to have as their fundamental idea the purpose of advancing the protection of children.

In that context, we must listen to what the police are saying. The police have called for this kind of legislation at the same meeting you, Mr. Speaker, and I attended with the hon. members. Much remains to be done but this is a very good and important step in the right direction.

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6:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be able to stand in defence of children today. I share the concerns and the outrage of many of my colleagues at the total inaction on the part of the government to protect children.

The member who just spoke for the Liberal Party has urged us to support Bill C-20 because, in his words, it is a step in the right direction. Well, I am going to urge all members of Parliament, including the Liberals, to vote against Bill C-20 because it is such a tepid step. It is almost nothing. It is as if we were on our way to Edmonton from Ottawa. We are facing west but we are going to take only a small step forward. We might as well vote against it because it really has not done anything.

In fact, if we were to analyze Bill C-20, we would find that all it does is change the words for some of the defences that are used when charged with this crime and it does not strengthen anything. In fact, in some areas I believe it substantially weakens it.

I have on occasion been told that real men do not cry, that real men do not eat quiche, and things like that, but I have to confess, and I do this rather unashamedly, that I have in the last couple of years actually cried on occasion for our country because of the lack of leadership in a whole bunch of areas but mostly because of the lack of moral leadership. We have no moral leadership all the way from the Prime Minister down to the ministers and the backbenchers on the government side.

We have Shawinigan shenanigans but it does not matter. The Prime Minister just says that he is doing his job. Yet we have accusations and charges. A whole bunch of people are under investigation into the misuse of money in Quebec on advertising. That is okay. That will blow over. The Liberals will get their party people to do the spin doctoring on that and that wave of negative reporting will disappear and they will move on.

That is unconscionable. There is no moral leadership, no moral anchor. We no longer have a leadership that guides in what is right and what is wrong. It has degenerated to the point where when it comes to things as obscene as the sexual abuse of children, here we are, a bunch of men and women, adults, most of us moms and dads, many of us grandparents, and we are not ready to stand up and say that we are not going there, period.

The other night I woke up. I was not at home. I was visiting my suffering mother in Saskatchewan who was recovering from the shock of having buried her husband of 67 and a half years and healing a broken hip. I guess I was probably a little emotional, having spent some time with her cleaning up some of the things in the house. This became part of my newspaper column in the local paper in Sherwood Park. It happens to me occasionally that I wake in the night and cannot go back to sleep. That happened at 2:23 a.m. I got to thinking about a whole bunch of things, including the imminent resumption of Parliament, I was wondering what would be on the Liberal agenda at the time and I contemplated what would be my highest priority.

Thinking about my family and my grandchildren, I had an inspiration which I wrote down. It was about 2:30 when this happened. The wheels were turning. I got out of bed, warmed up my computer and wrote my newspaper column at 2:30 in the morning. This was my inspiration. This was how I worded it, “Notwithstanding any Liberal interpretation of the charter, any person who knowingly creates, possesses, stores, distributes, sells or gives away any depiction, description or image of any child in a sexual abusive act or state in any form whatsoever, including but not limited to photographs, writings, computer images or files, is guilty of a federal offence and subject to imprisonment of a minimum of 25 years”. That was what I came up with at 2:30 in the morning a couple of weeks ago.

That is how passionately I feel about this. My young grandchildren should be protected. Everyone's children and grandchildren look to this place for leadership. Is it here? No. The government wants us to support this tepid, half a step bill that it labels child protection. It is not willing to say that this is simply not acceptable and that if people do it they will not be permitted to get away with it. I do not know why we are so timid in this area.

The other thing that occurs to me is that the Liberals are playing politics with this. I will explain how this is happening. Watch what happens in the next election. I do not know about my colleagues, but I will be voting against the bill because it does not touch the problems. It is not because we are not facing in the right direction. It is because we are not going anywhere.

I can already see the Liberal political tactic. In the next election the Liberals will ask the community of Elk Island not to vote for the incumbent because he voted against Bill C-20, the child protection legislation. The Liberals have done that before and they will do it again. They are planning an election campaign on the backs, if I can say it that way, of our innocent children. That is despicable. I cannot believe we have degenerated to such a low level.

I do not see any reason in the world why we cannot invoke the entire Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There was a lot of wisdom in the people of that day. In one step they put in the notwithstanding clause in order to protect against a court that would misinterpret the intentions of Parliament. Surely the writers of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms did not say that they wanted to have it in order to permit people to become predators of our children. We are irresponsible in this Parliament if we do not invoke that clause in the charter which was put there specifically so we could do that.

I would have much more to say except for limitations of time, but I would like to move an amendment as this point. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:

Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, be not now read a second time but that the order be discharged, the bill withdrawn and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

I will say in closing that the purpose is to strengthen the bill so that we can stand up in front of future generations and say that we actually did something tangible for the children of our country.

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6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, for those who are watching and wondering why this motion is necessary and why it is the proper thing to do with the bill, this is a procedural tactic that speaks to the heart of the issue. The amendment says that the bill should not be heard at this time. In other words, we should not proceed with this bill. We should not take this tepid, single baby step on child protection. We should not consider this bill anymore but we should send it to committee and charge the committee to come back to the House of Commons when there is a bill with some teeth in it, when the children's interests have been put ahead of the interests of the pornographers.

We should charge the committee to put together a bill and come back to the House. The preamble of the bill should say that when the rights of the criminal conflict with the rights of the children, we will come down on the side of the children for a change. We should tell the committee that this is a serious issue with which it is being seized, that we want it to be a priority, that it is not to be put at the bottom of the agenda but at the top and it should be the first thing to be worked on.

As the motion by the member for Elk Island states, the committee should be charged with getting back to the House in order to toughen the law to protect children, and make sure that when the children's rights are compromised that it has what it takes in order to protect them. What an opportunity that could be for the committee to do the right thing. It could toss the present bill into the garbage and come up with a set of proposals that really address children's needs.

Certainly it could look at how the sexual predator registry is handled and make recommendations on it. The minimum sentencing for those who abuse or would abuse children through pornography or other exploitive relationships could be changed. There could be proposals to strengthen the exploitation of children in other countries. Why do we not include that as well? We talk about, let us make it happen.

Let us bring forward some proposals that include minimum sentences so that the child abusers get the word. Let us also send a moral message to the country that we find those acts unacceptable. It is time to take bold steps, not just to look in the right direction, as the member for Elk Island said. It is time to make meaningful changes to the Criminal Code that cannot be misinterpreted by the courts, that will not be soft-pedalled by the porn distributors in this country. It is time to state that we will not be seen as not knowing where we stand. We have to send a firm message to the people who need to know, the parents, the children and those who would abuse them, that Parliament means business.

The motion is called a six month hoist of the bill. We do not want the bill to proceed any further. It cannot be fixed. It cannot be amended. It cannot be strengthened in its current form. We want the justice committee to come back with recommendations as it has done in the past. All parties can get together at the committee level and actually bring forward legislation that has some teeth in it. It has been done before. Often at the committee level members from all parties come together, address the problem, and put forward solutions, only to see the bill die on the Order Paper or amended beyond recognition by the Liberal government.

All we are saying is that this bill is not enough. Certainly we all agree that we need to protect children, at least those are the words, but let us not have empty words and useless chatter on this. Let us come forward with a set of changes to the Criminal Code that, whether one is a law-abiding citizen or a law-breaking citizen of this country, one is not going to skate around and avoid the issue.

People must know Parliament's will on this. People must see Parliament at its best, at its strongest, at its most united. Let us find a way to make sure that children come first. Perhaps we could title it “For the Sake of the Children” so that we do not do it for crass political reasons and we actually put the children first.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have asked for this adjournment debate, not just because I did not get an answer to my question, but also because the public deserves a better response than the one given by the minister. She keeps giving that same reply, which is filled with falsehoods and has neither seriousness nor depth to it.

We know that there are poor children because there are poor parents.

Campaign 2000 is a partnership of over 85 organizations and groups across Canada dedicated helping children and their parents, and the minister sets great store by it. Campaign 2000 states the exact opposite of what the minister is saying.

Campaign 2000's position is supported by the findings of the most recent National Council of Welfare Poverty Profile . This report, compiled in August 2002, indicates that the overall improvement of 0.7% in poverty rates came nowhere close to matching the impressive economic growth rate of nearly 5% during the same period.

The council also indicated that the heaviest impact of this chronic poverty was on preschoolers. Allyce Herle, acting Chair of the council, even says that the government only pretends to value children. The report also faults political leaders for not making political choices to eliminate the causes and consequences of poverty.

Campaign 2000 published an ad—in the Globe and Mail and in La Presse —over the past few months condemning the government's inaction in fighting poverty. The organization lists the essential components for a real anti-poverty strategy.

There must be significant additional social transfer payments, affordable and very good quality daycare, a national housing strategy—not affordable housing, social housing—significant relaxing of the Employment Insurance Act so that women, more of whom occupy short-term or part-time employment, do not need social assistance.

That is why I am asking what this government is waiting for to, among other things, increase funding for social housing and ease employment insurance criteria.

It must be said that, presently, the government is not putting any money into social housing. Let us be clear; we are not talking about affordable housing. I do not want the minister to tell me about affordable housing. She would be completely off track. I am talking about social housing.

I am also talking about relaxing the criteria for employment insurance. I am not talking about a small study that will benefit 300 or 400 women needing employment insurance. It is essential to recognize that, because women have short-term or part-time work or because they are self-employed, most of them do not manage to accumulate the famous 600 hours of employment needed to qualify for employment insurance.

I am waiting for the government to respond.

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6:45 p.m.

Shefford Québec


Diane St-Jacques LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, in response to the question raised by the member for Terrebonne—Blainville, I would like to point out that the fight against poverty is one of the top priorities of the Government of Canada.

September's Speech from the Throne reaffirmed the Government of Canada's determination to help children and families escape poverty and ensure that Canadian children get a good start in life.

We are fighting poverty on various fronts, including the national child benefit, which provides income support measures as well as programs and services designed for poor families with children. There is also the early childhood development agreement to improve and increase services to ensure that young children are healthy and ready to learn.

The Government of Canada has invested $2.5 billion to date in the national child benefit to reduce and prevent child poverty and to help parents enter the labour market. Under the benefit, a family of four with two children can receive up to $4,680 in benefits per year. In 2004 this amount will reach almost $4,800 a year.

The provinces and territories are reinvesting some $608 million from savings made under social assistance, as well as $125 million in new funding for benefits and services for children from low income families. The Government of Canada is providing $2.2 billion over five years to provincial and territorial governments to support investments in early childhood programs and services.

This year, we will be providing $400 million to the provinces and territories under the agreement on early childhood development. Under this federal-provincial-territorial agreement, governments agreed on four key areas to help young children: healthy pregnancies, births, and infants; improved parenting and family supports; improved early childhood development, learning and care and strengthening community support.

This is where the government is investing to help fight child poverty.

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6:45 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, a child's start in life has long term repercussions on his or her well-being. Children who live in poverty are faced with such difficulties that their development, health and well-being are compromised.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development just said that money is being injected, but is there really a concern for the needs of the poor? Of course, government investment is essential, but it is not just a question of money.

My question is, when will there be an investment in social housing? When will there be money invested in employment insurance? That is what I want to know and I never get a response. These are the two main thrusts of the fight against poverty. It simply means that a considerable amount of money needs to be invested, that these are areas the government has neglected since 1994 and will not admit it.

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6:45 p.m.


Diane St-Jacques Liberal Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat a little of what I said in my first answer. Indeed, we have invested money, including $2.5 billion for the national child benefit.

The hon. member made reference to Campaign 2000. In one of the latest reports, it was noted that in the past four years, child poverty has decreased. I know there is still a lot to do. It is not enough to invest money, but we must continue to find solutions to counter child poverty. That is what the Government of Canada is currently doing.

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6:45 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, on December 13, 2002, I asked a question in the House to follow up on a question asked the previous day, December 12, about routes 11 and 17 in northeastern New Brunswick.

My question dealt with the fact that the leader of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick had moved a motion in the legislative assembly requiring the federal government to respect the commitment made by the Minister of Labour responsible for New Brunswick regarding routes 11 and 17.

Typically, a question is supposed to be asked during oral question period, which consists of questions and answers. However, question period, clearly, consists mostly of many questions that remain unanswered, as occurred on December 12, when the Minister of Transport gave me the following answer:

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asked this very same question yesterday and I gave an answer. In case the answer was not clear I would direct his attention to Hansard and perhaps he will be edified.

It was absolutely not the same question. I did look at Hansard , and I could not find the answer, because he did not answer my question.

So tonight, after one month and some weeks, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, who is responsible for answering my question on behalf of the Minister of Transport, has finally found the answer.

The leader of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick has invited the Legislative Assembly in Fredericton to unanimously ask that Ottawa respect the commitment made by the Minister of Labour. That is clear, and I do not want to check in Hansard . I want an answer from the Liberal government tonight.

Those of us in northeastern New Brunswick believe in the economic development of the region. The government is always accusing us of only talking about employment insurance. Well, when we finally talk about economic development, the government refers us to Hansard in response to a question asked of it the day before, referring to a passage that does not even correspond to the question that was asked.

I would like the government to show some respect at least, tonight, and to answer the following question: does the government agree with the leader of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick, who asked the federal government to keep the minister's $90 million promise regarding highways 11 and 17 in northeastern New Brunswick?

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec


Marcel Proulx LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst asked a question. I did not check in Hansard , but if memory serves, it was more or less the same question he asked last week. To a similar question the hon. member will get a similar answer.

I remind the member for Acadie—Bathurst that the federal government has over the years made significant investments in New Brunswick highways. Since 1993, Transport Canada has had four different highway programs with the Province of New Brunswick.

I would also remind him that, through these programs, the federal government has committed $525 million toward improvements to the highway system in New Brunswick.

Some $39.7 million in federal-provincial funding has already been spent on various projects in the Acadian peninsula through these cost-shared agreements.

The province's priority, as well as the federal government's, is to complete the twinning of the Trans-Canada highway.

On August 14, 2002, the Prime Minister and Premier Lord announced their commitment to complete the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick at an estimated cost of $400 million.

The Prime Minister of Canada also announced an initial contribution of $135 million toward the federal share of this project.

Furthermore, on September 13, 2002, the Minister of Transport signed the strategic highway infrastructure program agreement with New Brunswick, providing an additional $29 million in joint funding to the province's national highway system.

Unfortunately, routes 11 and 17 are not part of the national highway system and, therefore, are not eligible for funding under this program. The only other program that remains is the highway improvement program, which was signed in 1987. At the end of this fiscal year, approximately $40 million will remain in this program.

Under this agreement, the province is responsible to submit projects for funding. However, the province has already put forward other priorities for the remaining funds.

Should the member, and perhaps the leaders of the provincial opposition parties, wish to convince the province to reallocate these funds to routes 11 and 17, Transport Canada would be prepared to consider their request.

I would also stress that highways are, as my hon. colleague is aware, a provincial responsibility. Therefore, there is nothing stopping the province from improving routes 11 and 17.

As my hon. colleague is well aware, with the two new announcements made last year by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport, the federal government has now committed almost three-quarters of a billion dollars toward the highway infrastructure in New Brunswick since 1993.

Clearly, the federal government is doing its share toward the improvement of highways in New Brunswick.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is shameful that the minister did not have the opportunity to answer this question. It was done too quickly, in 35 seconds. However, they had a month and a half to think about it and the parliamentary secretary is giving the same answer he did when I asked this question the first time. The parliamentary secretary is answering in the same way. He answered the same question last week.

I think that the question today is clear: does the federal government agree with the leader of the New Brunswick Liberals who are asking the federal government to keep the promise made by the Minister of Labour?

The parliamentary secretary talks about all kinds of money that was paid out to New Brunswick over the past few years. It is a little shameful. That means we had highways full of potholes. These highways had to be repaired.

I think this shows how bad the roads are. We want to know, for the economic development of northeastern New Brunswick, if the federal government is prepared to support the leader of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick, who said we need highways in northeastern New Brunswick, namely routes 11 and 17, yes or no.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find the efforts by the hon. members to finance highways 11 and 17 very praiseworthy. However, he must understand and accept that highways 11 and 17 are not part of the national highway system and therefore not eligible for funding within the framework of this program.

The Prime Minister and the Premier agreed that the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway is the main priority for New Brunswick within the framework of the strategic highway infrastructure program. Some of the funds that remain from the highway improvement program could be allocated to routes 11 and 17. Unfortunately, the province has already allocated these funds to other priorities.

However, I repeat to the hon. member that if the province can be convinced by my colleague to reallocate the funds for routes 11 and 17, Transport Canada is obviously prepared to consider this request.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:58 p.m.)