This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sexual.

Topics

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(14), it is my duty to inform the House of the motion to be addressed Monday in studying the business of supply. The motion reads as follows:

That this House:

(1) Endorse the decision of the allied international coalition of military forces to enforce Iraq's compliance with its international obligations under the successive resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, with a view to restoring international peace and security in the Middle East region;

(2) Express its unequivocal support for the Canadian servicemen and women, and other personnel serving in an exchange program with the United States and for those servicemen and women performing escort duties for British and United States ships, our full confidence in them and the hope that all will return safely to their homes;

(3) Extend to the innocent people of Iraq its support and sympathy during the military action to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and the reconstruction period that will follow; and

(4) Urge the government to commit itself to help the Iraqi people, including through humanitarian assistance, to build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours.

This motion, standing in the name of the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, is votable.

Copies of the motion are available at the Table.

The House resumed from March 19, consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-26.

I have been waiting for this day for a long time because I represent a community that for many years has been affected by the noise from trains in shunting yards close to a residential area. Other communities across Canada have also been very negatively affected by this issue. From the experience of my own community in east Vancouver in the Burrardview area, up until now there has been virtually no recourse or process to allow local communities to resolve these longstanding grievances against various rail companies around noise and the impact of that noise in adjacent residential neighbourhoods.

I was very pleased to see that Bill C-26 finally addresses some of these issues. To be specific, my understanding of the bill, if it is approved, is it would give the Canadian Transportation Agency authority to review railway noise complaints and require that the railways keep any adverse noise to a minimum when constructing or operating a railway, taking into consideration the requirements of railway operations and services and the interests of local communities.

The bill also develops a mediation process through the Canadian Transportation Agency. Public guidelines for the resolution of noise complaints will be developed. This is a huge relief for people who every single night have been experiencing sleep deprivation as a result of enduring excessive noise levels from the operation of trains, engines, coupling, decoupling and shunting, and so on.

As one constituent in this Vancouver neighbourhood said, “As always, we have no complaint with the railway in general, we just want to sleep”. I would wholeheartedly support that sentiment. For residents in communities such as the one I am describing in Burrardview, there is a recognition that railways, and of course the services they provide, are hugely important in our country.

However, there also has to be a recognition that when these services operate in very close proximity to urban areas and residential neighbourhoods, there has to be very careful consideration and we have to be sensitive and ensure that the processes are in place to deal with problems effectively and quickly. I would emphasize doing it quickly because I know that Burrardview residents have had to resort to phoning at 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning because they have not been able to go to sleep because of the noise just a few hundred feet from them.

In our situation in east Vancouver we have worked with the local health department. We have had noise testing done. Residents have gone to city council to try to apply the noise bylaw. Residents have tried every single thing they could to generate some relief so that they could go about their daily lives and not be completely disrupted. This has been to no avail so this bill is very important.

I recognize the outstanding efforts of a key group of residents in east Vancouver in the Burrardview neighbourhood. Jim Campbell and Barbara Fousek, Shane Simpson, John Lynn, Terry Bulwer and Torsten Kehler have acted as leaders on this issue. They have informed other residents about what they could do. They have monitored the situation and have stayed on top of it.

In our case it involves CPR. I want to congratulate those people for being so diligent in not only keeping me informed of what is taking place but in staying on top of the railroad company itself. We have actually gone out on the tracks. We did a tour on the tracks. We went to visit the various locations along the lines that were causing all of the problems.

I am sure some members of the House will remember my predecessor, Margaret Mitchell, very well, the wonderful member of Parliament for Vancouver East from 1979 to 1993. She too was dealing with this issue. That is how far back it goes.

I hope very much that the provision in Bill C-26 will strengthen what the CTA can accomplish in providing relief to local residents and ensuring that there is an environment of peace and quiet at critical times. People need to sleep and they want to enjoy their homes and neighbourhoods.

I want to speak to another aspect of the bill which is also very important. This is an omnibus bill, so there are many provisions. There is another part that interests me particularly as a member of Parliament who represents an urban community.

The bill will also modify the current provisions governing how rail companies can dispose of railway lines that are no longer required for freight service. The changes would allow urban transit authorities to receive offers where they would be able to acquire corridors that could be used for urban transit. This is something that is very pertinent to urban communities.

Certainly in Vancouver there is an ongoing debate about the critical need for rapid transit. It could be light rapid transit but certainly what is needed is a public transit system and structure that will allow people easy access to rapid transit that is affordable and which will also take account of our environment. This is critical as we face rising rates of asthma and as we see the smog hanging over our cities. As we try to meet the implementation agreements around Kyoto, this is a very key piece.

The rail lines and corridors exist. They sit there for years and years unused and they could be used for public transit. It seems to me we are missing a fabulous opportunity.

I was very pleased to see the provision in the bill that will allow urban transit authorities to look at specific corridors that may be suitable for public urban transit. I hope this will happen in Vancouver because we are surely suffering from congestion and smog and a complete overload of mostly single occupant vehicles on Vancouver streets.

Those are my comments on the bill. The NDP is supporting the bill in principle. We are happy to see it go to the committee where it will have thorough debate and review.

I hope that residents from east Vancouver will be among the witnesses who will be heard so they can put on the record firsthand some of the terrible situations they have had to endure in dealing with train noise. It is hoped that their issues can be addressed in the bill and finally the Canadian Transportation Agency can deal with the issue in a way that is fair, equitable and efficient to ensure that people can enjoy living in peace in their neighbourhoods.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech very closely. I can well appreciate her concerns about the noise level in communities with regard to trains, especially when it comes to shunting and the times of the day, or the night in a lot of cases, that the shunting takes place.

She mentions that they have tried everything, and I know other communities have too, with regard to noise bylaws and that studies have been done. I do not want the member to have a false sense of security that the bill would address these matters. As I have sat in the House, as has the hon. member, I have come to the conclusion that when they say that things will be studied, it could take up to years.

My first question would be this. Does the member not think that there should have been a time frame built into the bill as to when this had to be enacted upon by everybody involved?

I would also like to caution her with regard to opening up vacant corridors. In one aspect, it is a great idea that the corridors should be used by anybody who can take that on. However, when VIA ran into a large problem in the Rockies, a group came in and took over the VIA problem, because of the financial situation it was in, turned it around and turned it into a very profitable tourist attraction, which is making money, thriving and creating business. Now that the railroad has seen the profit margin in this, it wants it back.

To get investors to go into these empty corridors and to put up their own funds, the government should have to give some sort of assurance to them that when the profit margin starts to turn in their favour, it will not decide to take it back.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate and welcome the questions from the hon. member from the Canadian Alliance.

On the timing issue, as we get to committee we will have to get into this issue in a lot more detail. We will want to ensure that there are, hopefully, deadlines and that the government will agree that deadlines should be established so that the proposal does not just sit on the books, so to speak, and nothing happens.

However, what I am particularly interested in, is the proposal includes a proposed mediation process that the CTA would be able to engage in with respect to matters affecting noise, or maybe other matters as well. I think from a resident's point of view, this would be a much more effective way of dealing with this kind of issue than having to hire lawyers. This happened in one case and maybe in the member's case as well. In many communities local residents do not have those resources.

I would certainly agree that we should be pushing as much as we can so that the government is held to account to set out some clear timelines and deadlines for when this will be implemented.

On the second question, I am little familiar with the situation that the member raises. In speaking to the corridors that are no longer being used, I was referencing mostly the situation in urban communities and what opportunities there were for public transit.

However in other situations where a contract has been established and then all of a sudden VIA Rail decides to yank it back because something has become profitable, maybe that needs to be looked at by the committee. There has to be a fair process. We cannot allow a decision to be made and then have it unilaterally changed at some point because the company has decided there is some profit there and maybe it had better take another look at it. Maybe can look at that issue in committee.

Overall some of the proposals in this bill, not all of them but many of them, are good proposals. I am being optimistic but I hope that they will address some longstanding grievances that people have had.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my hon. colleague in the NDP a question that relates to our province.

On Vancouver Island we have the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway that has been deliberately run inefficiently on the part of VIA in an effort to get VIA out of it. For years and years the community on Vancouver Island and MPs on the island have asked the Minister of Transport to work with VIA, work with its current owners, RailAmerica, and work with the people on the island to put this railway in the hands of a private company that will be able to run it in a profitable fashion while keeping ownership in the hands of the public.

I would like my friend's views on whether she would support allowing this railway to be in the hands of a private company that can run it in a profitable fashion for the benefit of the people of Vancouver Island and whether she will ask the Minister of Transport to follow along those lines.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we can see there is a lot of interest in what happens in particular rail lines across the country. We think of Canada as being a place that, in the last hundred years or so, was drawn together by rail service. I think many of us in the House look with a sense of dismay to what has happened over many decades with our rail and passenger service, which connected many communities.

The member from Esquimalt has mentioned one such route from Esquimalt to Nanaimo. Even though I am in Vancouver, I have seen some of the stories about how people have campaigned to save these lines and to maintain this vital service that they have connecting very important communities.

On principle, we very much support the need to maintain and improve and increase these service levels. The NDP does not support the privatization of these services, however, and I think the hon. member knows that. We want to see the public infrastructure. We want to see VIA Rail do a better job of providing these services.

I am not aware of the private company to which the member the refers. However on the principle of the issue, which is to keep these services operating, to strengthen them, improve them and make them more accessible for people, I would say absolutely we have to do that. We have to pressure the government.

Over the years the service we have seen in these passenger lines has been abysmal. We have seen a complete undermining and eroding of these services. Canadians have a very strong view that we should be looking to Europe or even the U.S. where there is a much better passenger rail service. I am familiar with that line. I do not know the details of it. The NDP would not support a privatization but we do support an improvement and an increased capacity for passenger rail.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on second reading of Bill C-26. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

Accordingly pursuant to Standing Order 45 the division stands deferred until Monday, March 24 at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

The House resumed from February 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-20, which is the government's attempt to deal with the issues of child pornography and sexual exploitation of children.

Almost one year ago the Canadian Alliance put forth an opposition motion that was debated in the House. I believe it was last April 23. At that time, the government defeated what I think was a very informed motion. I will read that for the benefit of people who are watching today. That motion reads:

That the government immediately introduce legislation to protect children from sexual predators including measures that raise the legal age of consent to at least sixteen, and measures that prohibit the creation or use of sexually explicit materials exploiting children or materials that appear to depict or describe children engaged in sexual activity.

We went through an extended period of time where we continued to pressure the government to come forward with legislation to address these very pressing issues. We had the overwhelming national interest in removing the exploitation of young children, particularly by sexual predators, pimps and others. The movement toward raising the age of sexual consent from 14 to at least 16 had prompted hundreds of thousands of letters, e-mails and petitions.

On the day of the debate of the motion last year, and I can recall, Mr. Speaker, you were in the chair, I had 8,681 petitions on my desk to present. Of course that was denied by members on the government side, but they did end up in the minister's office later that day.

The point is none of those people are satisfied with the current legislation. The current legislation continues to fail to address the issues appropriately, those issues of the fact that artistic merit continues to be an adequate defence and a huge loophole, which basically makes child pornography a continuing problem in the country.

In terms of the police, victims, advocates, all kinds of other organizations, the enforcement of our laws preventing the exploitation of 14 and 15 year old children is completely inadequate. Until the government raises the legal age of sexual consent, this situation will continue.

What this legislation actually does is create a very complex and convoluted set of terms of reference. Opinions of many experts and common sense would indicate, first, that the existing defences of child pornography are actually broadened rather than narrowed by the legislation. What has really happened is there is not a substantive difference between this defence in this legislation and what was in the previous legislation on artistic merit.

The other defences have been rolled into something called the public good defence which now has several avenues in which the Supreme Court will have great difficulty unless the normal avenues of defence used by defence lawyers are addressed. They are not addressed. They are simply one broad thing called the public good test.

Therefore, what we really have is a very unacceptable situation, a situation that will lead to a vacuum in the courts from the standpoint of the ability of police to enforce the law, uncertainty in the courts and a cornucopia of opportunity for lawyers and for people who would carry out activities that are not in the public good and exploitive of children. Those situations will all occur.

The most mind-numbing of all is the fact that the age of sexual consent has not been raised from 14 to 16. What has happened is that we have another very complex arrangement, totally subject to the whims of judges or others. What we really need is what we call a truth in sentencing. We need to eliminate statutory release. We need to eliminate conditional sentencing for sex offenders and we must have minimum sentences in order to deter child predators.

There is one aspect of the bill that I think we all concur in and that is the fact that it creates one new offence called voyeurism and the distribution of voyeuristic material. This is obviously a positive step and has been done on a relatively timely basis.

What is so puzzling is that Canada remains one of the only western democratic jurisdictions that continues to pursue a minimum age of consent of 14. This is clearly unacceptable.

I want to read what the large social conservative organization in Vancouver, which sent me last year's petitions, had to say about all of this after our motion failed last year. It stated:

Parents, police and social service agencies are hindered in protecting children as young as 14 who are coerced into sex with adults. Children as young as 14 can be exposed to the risks associated with sexual activity such as emotional distress, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS. Recent years have seen a significant increase in crimes of a sexual nature against children. Child prostitution, child pornography etc. are increasing at an alarming rate. The low age of consent encourages societal acceptance of early sexual behaviour and appetite for pedophiles. Problems associated with low age of consent to sex are deep emotional and mental health problems, STDS, cervical cancer, teen pregnancies, school drop-outs and criminal behaviour.

I am appalled that such a crucial and important issue, which deals with the fundamental fabric of our society, is being treated so dismally by the government.

I want to talk a little about the child pornography legislation as well. When the Supreme Court of British Columbia in February 2002 found that the written works of Robin Sharpe had artistic merit and acquitted him of the charges this created a vacuum.

I see my time is up, therefore, I move:

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

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 it be read a second time this day six months hence.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the amendment.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to the amendment to Bill C-20.

Our problems with the bill are many and varied. Let us back up for a moment. If the objective of our justice system is the protection of innocent civilians, then surely the protection of children must be at the forefront of our justice system.

For 10 years people in my party and in others have asked, pushed, cajoled and coerced the government to implement solutions that will protect children from that most egregious crime: the sexual, violent abuse at the hands of a predator or a pedophile.

To understand why we are so adamant about this, let us look at pedophilia for a moment. It is an incurable problem. Pedophiles, by and large, are not cured of this. When somebody comes before our justice system to be tried and sometimes convicted for these offences, it is usually not the first time the person has sexually abused a child. In fact, studies show that when an individual comes before the court charged with the sexual abuse of a child, generally the person has abused at least 12 children before that.

Hon. members should think about that for a moment. When a person comes before a court for the very first time, the person has sexually raped and abused at least 12 children, not once but generally over a prolonged period of time. As my colleague has mentioned, that has profound implications upon the life of a child for the entire length of the child's life. It is something that they never, ever get over.

As a result, we are aghast and appalled that the government has not adopted the constructive solutions that we put forth that would have strengthened our justice system, protected children and enabled our courts to do the job they were supposed to do: protect the Canadian public.

It is also without a doubt the responsibility of the courts and our justice system to implement solutions that will help in the rehabilitation of the convicted. We make no dispute about that and, in fact. we encourage that. How can we have a society where those who have made mistakes and who have committed offences do not have the hope of retribution or of being cured of their problem?

Pedophilia is in a category very different from all others, with the exception, I would say, of individuals who commit violent sexual abuses against other individuals. Violent sexual behaviour, pedophilia, is in a class unto itself. Most of those people do not get cured. It is true that most of those people, it is sad to say, have endured sexual abuse, violent or otherwise, themselves. That is a profound tragedy and we have great sympathy for those individuals. However it does not exonerate them from committing acts of violent sexual abuse against others during their lives.

Therefore it is our responsibility here in the House to ensure that our justice system, our courts and our police have the tools to not only protect civilians, but also to ensure that to the best of our ability we can give the individuals who committed those offences as much treatment as possible to ensure that when or if they get out we can be confident that they will not reoffend again.

Herein lies the problem. The court system gives individuals a sentence. They finish their sentence and then they are released. We are fairly confident that some of those people will not reoffend but, having worked in jails, I can tell the House that a lot of those people, whether they are sexual predators or violent offenders, are being released with the full knowledge and awareness that they will commit that type of offence again. Those who work in our penal institutions, those who are part of our court system and those who are part of our police forces are aghast, appalled, saddened and often demoralized by the fact that our system does not at the end of the day, at its heart, protect our society from those individuals who commit the most violent, appalling and egregious offences against innocent civilians.

These people are predators. I will provide an example. Friends of mine, a couple, were living in Vancouver. An individual moved in beside them and befriended them. He came over with gifts and food. One day the wife of this friend of mine was at home and suddenly found their next door neighbour in their home, uninvited, with candies for their daughter, who was seven years old at the time. Subsequent to that they found out that this individual, their neighbour who they thought was perfectly fine, had a long history of violent sexual abuses against children. He was and is a predator and was an individual who was trying to sexually abuse their seven year old daughter.

When this friend of mine went to the police, the police said they could do nothing about this since the person had not committed a crime. What do we have to wait for? Do we have to wait for that individual to rape that seven year old girl so the police can say they have a crime and therefore can incarcerate that individual?

Certainly a crime has to be committed before someone is incarcerated, to be sure, but on the other hand, does that family not have a right to know that the person living next door to them is an individual with a long history of violent sexual abuses, an individual who the police know is fully expected to reoffend? Does that family not have a right to know that its next door neighbour has a very high chance of sexually abusing another child? The hands of the police were tied in that case, as they are tied in other cases around the country.

We understand and are fully cognizant of the fact that all individuals have rights, but at the end of the day the rights of a child have to trump the rights of a sexual predator. That has to happen. That is what we in our party are trying to do. We are trying to change the laws of the land to ensure that children are not going to be preyed on by pedophiles who have a long history of these actions and, by and large, as I said before, are incurable. Some can be controlled and should be allowed out after serving their sentences, but those who cannot should be kept in jail until such time as the judicial system is confident that these individuals will not reoffend.

We also know that on the international stage there are pedophile tours. These adults, working underground, get together to go on tours to Colombia and southeast Asia where they are taken to brothels and children are presented in front of them so that they can rape them. That is what is happening now. It is an underground system. The international judicial system is aghast and appalled that collectively we have been unable to prosecute these individuals who go on these tours to sexually abuse the children of people in faraway countries.

I know that the Thai government and the Malaysian government are aghast because many of these pedophiles selectively go there to sexually abuse children. This cannot be allowed to happen. Our Minister of Justice must work with other ministers of justice and international policing organizations to develop a system for the identification and prosecution of individuals who actively go after children on these international sex tours.

My colleague has mentioned the issue of child porn. I will not belabour the issue because my colleagues have spoken eloquently about it. Suffice it to say that we are not talking about some individual who accidentally pulls something off a computer. We are talking about individuals who have a long history of pulling up and using child pornography. What adults do among themselves is adults' business, but when people are actually buying child pornography, attached to that must be victims, and the victims are children who had absolutely no say whatsoever in being part and parcel of those movies or photographs that show them being sexually abused by adults.

As for solutions, we have spoken about heavier penalties and minimum sentencing for people convicted of pedophilia. Release should be conditional upon the knowledge that individuals who are pedophiles, and I would extend this to people who commit rape, are violent sexual offenders. We must be certain that those individuals and people who commit pedophilia and sexual and violent offences are not going to reoffend. That category of offences is very different from others because at the end of the day the victims of those offences are individuals who have to sustain and endure terrible penalties that they have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Dangerous offender status should be more liberally applied to those individuals who are pedophiles. As I said before, it is an incurable problem.

I know my time is up, but I hope the government listens to the constructive solutions my party has put forward. We are very willing to work with the government to implement a constructive Bill C-20 that will protect our children from predation by violent sexual offenders.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and debate Bill C-20 today. I want to say at the outset that members of the Canadian Alliance have spoken out forcefully on this and that is because we reflect where our constituents are at. Many of us have received petitions on this issue. People are very concerned about court rulings that seem to indicate some kind of a tolerance for child pornography in some form.

However, I want people who are watching today to understand that the Canadian Alliance feels it is completely wrong to give any kind of nod of approval to any form of child pornography, any form. I want to underline how pervasive the attitude is, at least among some people, that it is okay to tolerate some kinds of child pornography by pointing to something that was said in this place back at the end of January by a member of the NDP. This is what the member for Palliser said:

Mr. Speaker, in response to the member's specific questions, the position that I take, and I believe would be shared by a majority if not all of my caucus colleagues--

These are his colleagues in the NDP.

--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.

My concern, which I think is shared by police officers across the country, is that if we open the door a crack to allowing these “artistic” versions of child pornography or what the courts have ruled are stories that may have artistic merit, then really we give the seal of approval to child pornography.

We want to shut that down. We are saying that there is no such thing as child pornography having any kind of public good. That of course is what is at the heart of the debate over Bill C-20 and we want to make it very clear that our party is completely opposed to that notion.

This is such a broad subject and there are so many different aspects to it, but suffice it to say that the Alliance believes that child pornography in Canada today is a scourge. We know that there has been a lot of publicity about this issue recently. There has been a worldwide crackdown by police forces on child pornography.

One of the things that concerns us, beyond the flaws in Bill C-20, is the fact that the police are not given adequate resources to deal with the issue of child pornography. When we had the recent crackdown around the world, which resulted in people being charged in the United States, Great Britain and some in Canada, we found that in Canada we had a woeful lack of resources when it came to having enough people to go out and check on people who initially were caught with child pornography, to check and make sure that we actually had enough evidence to prosecute them.

That is a concern. If the government maintains, and I think that it would, that the protection of children has to be the highest possible priority of a police force and a justice system in Canadian society, then they have to have adequate resources to do that. They need to have good laws and they need to have adequate resources. I am afraid to say that we have neither in Canada today.

The idea of artistic merit as a defence for child pornography, or even now the idea of public good as Bill C-20 states, I think to most people is contrary to common sense.

The government has not just failed when it comes to those issues, but it has failed in other ways as well, which are related to this. Some members already have spoken about the government's failure to adopt legislation that would raise the age of consent for engaging in sexual relations. Right now the age is 14, which I think would strike most people as being too young. We are talking here about relations between adults and children as young as the age of 14 and that is what concerns us.

Last year when we brought this forward as a motion in the House of Commons I was surprised, in fact, very frustrated, that the government voted against our motion to raise the age of consent from 14 to at least 16. The government trotted out all kinds of red herrings that it had not been able to get the provinces onside and that it was working with the provinces. That is a red herring because it is the federal government alone that sets the Criminal Code. The provinces administer it, but it is the federal government that has sole responsibility for changing the laws when it comes to the Criminal Code of Canada. We are concerned about that.

Another indication that the government does not take these issues seriously enough is its ridiculous sex offender registry which it is now proposing to bring in. The sex offender registry would only list people as of now who have committed a sexual offence. They would be the only ones who would be listed.

If somebody had been guilty of all kinds of sexual offences in the past, they would not be listed in the sex offender registry. That calls into question the government's commitment of ensuring that the public's protection is put ahead of the protection of privacy for people who have records as sexual offenders. To me that is simply wrong.

We are concerned that the government is not taking seriously enough what should be the first priority of any government which is the protection of its citizens. Why were governments formed? They were formed to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens and one of those freedoms is the freedom to not be interfered with, sexually. The government has not addressed these issues in a serious enough manner. There have been thousands of names on petitions that have come into the House. These people say they want these sorts of laws strengthened.

For reasons that are not apparent to me, the government drags its heels at every turn and comes up with all kinds of excuses for not doing it. I think that is simply wrong.

I want to make reference to an article that a previous member mentioned that was written by a Winnipeg lawyer who talked about the artistic merit defence and the new legislation, Bill C-20. He argued that the artistic merit defence, or the old legislation governing child pornography, was actually stricter than the new legislation that the government is bringing in. He pointed to all kinds of possible ways that the government could put some strict limits on child pornography to ensure that the next time this law is challenged it will not be thrown out again by the courts.

I would argue that if the government is not prepared to listen to the opposition then it should listen to people like David Matas, a Winnipeg Lawyer. He has provided some common sense suggestions for ways to limit the current definition of child pornography to ensure that we do not have to go through this again and that Canada's young people are protected.

About a year and a little bit ago my colleague from Lethbridge and I went down to the Canada-U.S. border and spent some time with customs officials on both sides of the border. One thing that came up on both sides of the border was how they have to be so vigilant today to ensure that when young people are travelling across the border with an older person, that they are not doing so because they have been lured by older people for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The impression they left with me is that this is not just a problem, it is a crisis.

We hear Toronto police officers talking about the crisis that they are facing now with respect to child pornography. We hear people talking today about the fact that Canada is becoming somewhat of a destination for sex tourism.

This is a serious issue and I am concerned that the government is not taking its responsibilities for protecting young people seriously. We have laid down a number of examples today of how it is failing in those responsibilities. Not only does it have to do with Bill C-20, but it has to do with its inability to summon the courage to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 and it is has to do with bringing in a sex offender registry that captures on that registry people who have committed sexual offences in the past and not just as of today.

I will conclude by urging the government to consider these remarks and to change this legislation.

EnergyStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the House is well aware, I have been interested in renewable energy for many years. The war in Iraq, the potential danger to our environment by nuclear waste, and the challenge of climate change compel me today to offer a vision for Canada.

A future where Canada has a secure supply of energy, where fossil fuels are just one source, and the supply is diverse, using a combination of proven technologies, like water power, together with renewable and sustainable forms of energy that we are starting to use today, like alternative fuels, wind power, solar power, and sources of energy we have not even thought of yet.

We must support our scientists and commercial enterprises by investing in their research and development so we can have high tech jobs for our Canadian youth, clean air to breathe, and security for our energy future.

FisheriesStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is common knowledge that Canada's east coast fishery is in trouble. The resident population of some six million to seven million seals, each destroying a tonne of fish annually, clearly contributes significantly to this problem. The annual commercial harvest of 350,000 animals is a balanced approach.

Not common knowledge is that the west coast has a similar problem. Salmon populations have been significantly reduced by huge seal populations.

I believe that a seal hunt on a commercial basis will introduce a badly needed new economy on the B.C. coast and will also aid in the revival of healthy returns on salmon and trout.

I would like to encourage the minister to seriously consider establishing a commercial seal hunt on the west coast of Canada.