Madam Speaker, I rise today to take part in this important debate, which has been a long time coming. Although this issue has been debated numerous times in the House, every time initiated by the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition, it is the first time an actual bill, Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, has been the topic of discussion.
I stood in the House more than two years ago in support of a Canadian Alliance motion requesting the establishment of a national sex offender registry. Two years ago, that motion resulted in the government committing to the establishment of a registry. At that time, members opposite stood unanimously in support of their government's commitment to establish a national sex offender registry by January 30, 2002.
Quite obviously the government again has failed to meet another commitment. It failed to meet its commitment of having the sex offender registry up and running by January 2002. I am confident that had we not pushed and prodded the government, it never would have met that commitment on its own accord. The time it has taken to force the government to bring Bill C-23 before the House clearly demonstrates to all Canadians and all parliamentarians the priority, or the lack thereof, that it places on the protection of our children in this country.
Ontario established a registry three years ago. Christopher's law, or Bill 31, received royal assent in April 2000. That bill established a registry to enhance public safety by providing law enforcement agencies with a modern, reliable and effective electronic tool to support services to track sex offenders in our communities and to improve the investigation of crimes of a sexual nature.
Despite the efforts of Ontario and other provincial governments, the Liberal government has failed to protect Canadian children from sexual predators.
This will be the third time that I have stood in the House quoting from a document that was produced by the Liberal Party of Canada, produced before the 1993 election. Before the election, their promise, their commitment and their vision sounded pretty good in the red book. I quote this today because it is absolutely imperative that we point out the clear justification for a national sex offender registry as recognized not just recently but 10 years ago by those who now sit across the way in government. Yet the government has moved very slowly. It has done absolutely nothing to this point but fail to once again make good on a promise. It has failed, and that is this government's record. It has a record of failure.
In 1993 the Liberals fully supported the establishment of a national sex offender registry of convicted child abusers. Their rationale, quoting directly from their own document, was this:
Sex offenders represent almost 20 per cent of the incarcerated population and 10 per cent of the conditionally released population.
Repeat sex offenders are more than twice as likely to commit further sex offences, much more likely to violate conditional release conditions and more likely than other offenders to reoffend... However, treatment programs for sexual offenders are sorely lacking.
The Liberal government recognized the chances of reoffending. It recognized that they were a threat. All those it recognized. These facts were highlighted three years prior to the publication of the Liberal document.
A 1990 report by a working group established by the Department of the Solicitor General concluded that offender treatment programs have shown limited results. The report said that they gauged and looked at the programs that were in place, followed them through, did an evaluation and the programs showed limited results. The report showed that practitioners in the field of sex offender treatment do not claim to cure sex offenders. The Solicitor General's department in 1990, in a previous government, recognized that they cannot simply claim to have 100% cured the sex offender, but rather the treatment strategy is to manage the risk of reoffending.
That document says that although they will put them in a program, although they will give them treatment, at the end of the day they recognize that basically the best they can do is risk manage. I am not sure as a parent that I am quite satisfied with the response the report brought out, although it is true. As a parent it causes me some concern that people who recognize that programs are not working and recognize the recidivism rate are saying they are going to risk manage pedophiles and sex offenders back into the communities.
The report also said that there were not enough experts to meet the demand for sex offender treatment and the limitations of treatment were recognized. This research based information, produced by the Department of the Solicitor General, clearly demonstrated well over 10 years ago why Canada needed a national sex offender registry. Yet the government and its predecessor failed to establish such a registry despite recognizing the risks, despite the ample justification to do so.
The question must be asked, recognizing the rights, recognizing the risk, why would it fail to meet such a requirement? The only plausible answer in my mind to that question is that the government has and continues to place the rights of the offender before the rights of the victim. It has continuously placed the rights of the offender above the concerns of the protection of our society. We have seen this over and over and over again.
This is evident in almost all of the justice legislation the government has brought forward in the last few years, including the establishment of the DNA database. Enacted in 1998, Bill C-3, an act respecting DNA identification, created a new statute governing the establishment and the administration of a national DNA bank. It also amended the Criminal Code to permit a judge to make a post-conviction order authorizing the taking of bodily substances from a person found guilty of a designated Criminal Code offence in order to include the offender's DNA profile in the national DNA database.
The DNA data bank was officially opened on July 5, 2000. My party, the Canadian Alliance Party, is firmly committed to restoring confidence in our justice system by providing law enforcement officers and law enforcement agencies the latest technological tools to quickly detect and apprehend criminals. The attempt to amend Bill C-3 was unsuccessful.
We live in a day and age where every sector of society is looking for the newest technology available to enhance their way of life, to enhance their business, to enhance their safety perhaps, every aspect, every area of society.
Look at some of the things that are happening in health care and the new technologies that are available. It has only been for a few years that we have been able to have laser surgery done on our eyes to repair loss of vision. That is old technology now. Now health care has the technology to do many things.
We demand high technology in travel. There are vehicles now with global positioning systems that can detect when there has been an accident. When the air bag is inflated a signal is sent automatically by satellite to an office and medical attention is called without ever making a 911 call.
Our society has moved to a place where we accept and want the latest in technology. We see it. We have turned the television on in the last few days and we have seen the latest technology in the war on Iraq. We have seen missiles being sent from hundreds of miles away. We have seen the latest in laser guided missiles.
We see it in health sciences with research and development. We want the newest in technology. However, when it comes to law enforcement, when it comes to dealing with crime, when it comes to dealing with criminal offences and offenders, the Canadian Alliance argued that DNA identification, if used to its full potential, could be one of the newest technologies. We argued that DNA identification could be one of the greatest resources in fighting crime since the introduction of dusting for fingerprints.
To deny the police agencies the full use of this technology, as Bill C-3, did was reprehensible. It was unacceptable, inasmuch as it maintains an unnecessary level of risk to the lives and safety of our citizens. We have the technology. We have the ability to fight crime. When it comes to giving those resources to our law enforcement agencies, we handcuff them and then tell them to go out and do their job. Shame on the government.
There are literally hundreds of unsolved rapes. Hundreds of murders are outstanding in the country. There are victims across the nation where one event, one criminal offence has changed their life forever.
I have looked into the faces of mothers whose children have been murdered, some who have been murdered in prison. The twinkle in their eye is gone forever. When we talk with a parent whose young child has been sexually molested or raped, it not only leaves a scar on the primary victim, the child, it scars that family and the extended family forever.
Many dangerous offenders remain on our streets because of the government's failure to deploy the DNA tool properly as requested by police across the country. Bill C-3 did not allow for the taking of DNA samples at the time of the charge. The bill did not permit samples to be taken retroactively from incarcerated criminals, other than designated dangerous offenders or multiple sex offenders or multiple murderers.
However, Bill C-3 did provide a dangerous and an unnecessary exemption that could be authorized by judges not to issue a warrant for the taking of a sample if they believed that in doing so it would impact on an individual's privacy and security. Here again we see where the courts have the ability to disallow the taking of a DNA sample if that individual's privacy or security could be jeopardized.
This misplaced consideration for the privacy of offenders is more than apparent in the bill we are debating today. It is more than apparent in Bill C-23.
Sex offenders may be excluded from the registry, according to Criminal Code section 490.03(4) as set out in clause 20, if the court is satisfied:
--that the person has established that, if the order were made, the impact on them, including on their privacy or liberty, would be grossly disproportionate to the public interest in protecting society through the effective investigation of crimes of a sexual nature, to be achieved by the registration of information relating to sex offenders.
While not all sex offenders will be successful in exempting themselves from the registry, this one thing we can be sure of: many will delay having their names put on that registry and many will not register their whereabouts, arguing in court that with regard to their privacy, their liberty and their freedom, it would be too negative an impact for them to handle. One thing we can be sure of is we will see a log jam in the court system like we have never seen before. The lawyers across the way sit back and wipe their hands and lick their chops. This becomes a lawyer's dream.
If they are not successful in convincing the judge that their names should not be on the registry, we can be sure they will take their cases to the Supreme Court of Canada and they will string out those cases for just as long as they can.
In the papers just two days ago, one headline read, “Rapist asks Supreme Court to strike down DNA law. Lawyer argues sampling bodily substances violates constitutional rights”. The article went on to say:
An Edmonton man convicted of raping and impregnating a 14-year-old girl has made the first Supreme Court of Canada challenge to laws allowing police to take DNA from suspects....The case being argued involves a man whose name is subject to a publication ban, who was boarding during the week with the victim and her family at their Hinton, Alberta trailer....The man had sex with her against her will for 30 minutes....Four months later she realized she was pregnant....The girl, described as intellectual delayed, told her mother what had happened and was taken for an abortion....Police seized the fetal tissue as evidence. In January, 1997, RCMP officers armed with a search warrant, pricked the man's finger for a blood sample to make a DNA comparison with the tissue [that they had taken]....He was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to six years in prison. In 2001, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled two to one to uphold the conviction. Mr. Anderson, whose client is free on $5,000 bail, wants the Supreme Court to overturn that decision.
The defence is contending that the DNA legislation breaches the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that it hinders the protection of his personal security and that it should be banned because it was an unreasonable search.
The convicted rapist's lawyer is not arguing his client's innocence. He is not arguing in a court of law that there has been a miscarriage of justice, that the individual was innocent of the charge that was put against him. He is arguing against how the police obtained the evidence to prove that he was guilty. He is arguing a technicality.
While the wheels of justice grind slowly or they grind to a halt, our sons and daughters may be victimized all because the government continues to stack the deck in favour of the offender and the offence over the protection of society.
A number of years ago the Supreme Court of Canada in a 5 to 4 decision held that privacy rights under the charter demanded that police obtain a warrant prior to entry into a dwelling house to arrest a suspect. The decision in response to the Feeney case resulted in evidence being thrown out because the police did not have a warrant when entering his premises. Feeney's blood soaked shirt which had been obtained by the police, and blood all over the place where this individual lived, clearly proved his guilt to the first degree murder charge. That shirt or that blood was not allowed as evidence.
In her dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Judge L'Heureux-Dubé said that while the rights of the accused people are certainly important under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “they are not all the equation”. I like what the judge said. The judge did not question whether someone who was charged had rights under the charter. She did not question whether someone who was a suspect by the police force and who had a charge levied against them had rights. She did not question whether the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applied. She said that it was only one part of the equation and not all the equation.
That quote should be a wake-up call to the government. That quote should be a wake-up call to those who are continuously looking only at the rights of the offenders with the rights of the victims forgotten.
The judge cautioned her colleagues not to automatically exclude even illegally obtained evidence without considering the consequence for victims, the protection of society and the reputation of the justice system. She stated:
When an attacker or a murderer is acquitted in the name of the regularity of the criminal process, it is not only past victims who are ignored, but also future victims who are sacrificed.
The Supreme Court judge boldly suggested that it was time to reassess the balance the court has struck between protecting the individual rights of the accused and preserving society's capacity to protect its most vulnerable members and to bring and to expose the truth. I challenge the government today to strike the necessary balance because as Judge L'Heureuz-Dubé said:
--perhaps it is time to recall that public respect and confidence in the justice system lies not only in protection against police abuse, but also in the system's capacity to uncover the truth and ensure that, at the end of the day, it is more likely than not that justice will have been done.
I emphasize this, “it is more likely than not that justice will have been done”.
She is saying that when someone goes through the system, the public wants to look and have the faith that justice has been served. When we read about offenders back on the street because of technicalities, the public begins to question if justice was served. Did they come to justice? Although they are very seldom ever satisfied when the offender is caught, the public questions if there a degree of closure that can be brought to the victim because justice has been served. That is the question. That is the secondary part of the equation that needs to be considered.
The only way we can ensure that justice is done is to ensure that police officers in Canada have all the investigative tools necessary to do their jobs effectively and to uncover the truth through the bringing together of all the evidence that they can gather.
It will indeed be an injustice if the DNA warrant provisions are found unconstitutional. It will indeed be an injustice if it severely restricted the use of DNA as evidence.
More than 10 years ago six year old Punky Gustavson was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and then murdered. The story captivated all the country, certainly my province of Alberta. It was a story that, not only in Edmonton where it happened but throughout the province, horrified people as when they heard about little Punky Gustavson going missing.
It happened over 10 years ago. Less than a week ago, Punky Gustavson's murderer was finally charged. In November of last year, an Alberta provincial court ordered that DNA sample be taken from Clifford Mathew Sleigh, who is a prisoner in the Bowden Institution. That sample was matched with a very small sample of DNA that was taken in 1992 when Punky's body was found.
As I stated earlier, only three types of prisoners who were found guilty prior to June 2000, when the DNA data bank was created, were eligible to be included. The first were those who were listed as being dangerous offenders. The second was multiple murderers. The third was multiple sex offenders. Across Canada 2,000 such offenders were identified. Three hundred of them were in Alberta prisons. The Alberta court however had to obtain court orders for the seizure and inclusion of DNA from the 300 inmates as it was not automatic.
The Canadian Alliance Party has argued that DNA samples should be automatic, should be retroactive and should be taken from all convicted offenders. Similarly, we have argued, not so successfully apparently, to have all convicted sex offenders retroactively entered into the registry. However we will continue to push for the inclusion of all past and current sex offenders to be listed on the registry with absolutely no exceptions.
The retroactively part of the bill is of huge concern to Canadians. The fact that the government boasts of a registry with no names on it and the fact that the government boasts of a registry that for many years down the road will not help law enforcement is wrong. It is wrong for the minister to stand up in front of the House or in front of any television camera across the country and brag about how the registry, as soon as it is brought into legislation and is passed, will help. Without retroactivity on that list, absolutely nobody will benefit.
We will push to have any sex offender who fails to comply with an order to register to be held liable for a significant terms of imprisonment. Currently, clause 20 of Bill C-23 adds subsection 490.09(1). It states:
Every person who knowingly contravenes an order...is guilty of an offence and liable
(a) in the case of a first offence, on summary conviction, to a fine of not more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.
It is absolutely outrageous and a complete insult to law-abiding firearm--