Mr. Speaker, I shall try to make a speech that will not result in us being taken for idiots. This afternoon, we clearly heard the President of the Treasury Board call the Bloc Quebecois members idiots. I thought it was important to begin my speech by saying that. That kind of thing is unacceptable. Perhaps it was not recorded, but we heard it clearly.
With respect to Bill C-12, it is important that we be able to say that, with the changes and evolution in technology today, many aspects of this technology should now be taken into account in a debate such as we are having on the subject of Bill C-12, on the controls needed to ensure that child pornography does not spread everywhere.
Recently, we have seen examples in Quebec that demonstrate to what an extent this has become a very touchy subject. People react very strongly when children are involved in child pornography situations.
As proof, for example, there was Operation Scorpion in Quebec City, where the police uncovered a whole system where certain sexual predators took advantage of what was happening with young people. That is not acceptable in a society, even if certain people want to convince us that it is a free and democratic society. A free and democratic society does not go so far as to sexually exploit children.
Overall, we agree with the bill before the House to amend various provisions of the Criminal Code. I want to give some examples. The maximum penalty for sex offences would increase. Obviously, if children are the victims, if society wants to side with the victims, convicted offenders must receive a harsh penalty. That is the intention of this amendment to the Criminal Code. The maximum penalty for sexual exploitation would increase.
The penalty for child abuse would also increase. Child abuse constitutes aggravating circumstances. For example, there are aggravating circumstances when a sexual predators are physically abusive. Obviously, we have no problem with this change.
A series of amendments to the Criminal Code are proposed to allow various means to facilitate testifying. We consider this extremely important. When children are required to testify before the prosecutors, judge and the entire court, with all the decorum of such courts, they feel intimidated and it makes it harder for them to testify.
There are things we fully agree with. It is important that all orders restricting publication be upheld. In the case of child abuse, when youth protection lawyers prosecute the parents or the child abuser, often, indeed almost always, the judges will invoke an order restricting publication. We agree with this.
We also agree with the ban on cross-examination by the accused. That is unacceptable, but it often occurs in adult court or rape cases. In the past, some accused have cross-examined the victims themselves, because they were defending themselves. It is very difficult to accept that this happens. If we allowed this, an accused could question a child he abused physically or sexually.
These are things that we want to see in this legislation. Video recordings are also good, as is allowing the child to testify behind a screen without having to face the court. These are all extremely important.
The bill also creates an offence for voyeurism and for distribution of voyeuristic recordings. Previously, this was a grey area. I think identifying it and making an attempt to define it closely is a positive element in the bill.
There is also the matter of consent. We have to talk about it. We believe that in a free and democratic society, if a child aged 14 or over gives consent, society can accept it. Of course, if there is exploitation involved, that is another thing, and we cannot accept it. Also, I believe there is a provision in the bill that a child 14 and over may give consent, yes, but not with a person who is in a position of authority, such as a school principal or the like. Even if the child says he consents, I think it is unacceptable to allow it because of this relation of authority.
As far as the age issue is concerned, I do not share the opinion of my colleagues in the Conservative Party, the former Alliance. They are the ones who introduced the young offender legislation and voiced approval of jail sentences for youths aged 14 or 15. Now they are telling us it is unacceptable for young people to have consensual sexual relations under the age of 16. It seems to me that this represents a problem on their part. If, in one bill, they can say that offenders of that age can be imprisoned and tried in adult court, I do not see how consensual sex cannot be allowed at the age of 14, 15 or 16. I think the Alliance has a consistency problem here.
A number of factors in this bill convince us it should be adopted. We agree with this bill, particularly since we are of the opinion that the Criminal Code did not contain sufficient provisions for the defence of these young victims.
A number of measures are introduced for inclusion in the Criminal Code. We feel that victims will benefit from them. A clear signal will also be sent for society to side with young people who have been victims of this type of treatment and take a strong stand against abusers and sexual predators. The Bloc Quebecois will therefore be supporting this bill.
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.