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House of Commons Hansard #13 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was document.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate on Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code, protection of children and other vulnerable persons, and the Canada Evidence Act.

Yesterday I participated in a debate about encouraging our youth to vote and to get involved in politics. Youth are our future. The most vulnerable groups in our society are children, women and seniors. All the laws we see coming from the government side over a period of time are not protecting any of these groups.

Some time ago there was an incident in my constituency of Surrey Central. A senior citizen, a second world war veteran who was deaf and mute, was beaten to death. Another time there was an incident in the Cloverdale area of Surrey Central. A young girl was abducted, badly treated, and I do not want to go there, and she was murdered.

We constantly see that our streets are not safe. These two vulnerable groups of citizens are not being protected in our society. The government is not doing enough. The law enforcement agencies do not have laws with teeth. We have ended up in a revolving door with legislation after legislation which is ineffective and is not working and is not giving adequate resources to the law enforcement agencies.

The bill before us today was first introduced in 2002. The Prime Minister tries to continue the charade that he leads a new government, yet here he has put an old, flawed bill before us. Admittedly, there are some good things in the bill, but with the good things there are some bad things as well. I have outlined them in the chamber many times before. However, the Prime Minister has not bothered to incorporate any proposed changes. He has not even seen the need to introduce any amendments of his own. How committed can the Prime Minister be to democratic reform? How new is his government or his ideas when we see legislation recycled time and again in this chamber and it does not reach anywhere?

The Department of Justice proposed Bill C-12 to expand the offence of sexual exploitation and the definition of pornography, and to eliminate the defence of artistic merit in child pornography proceedings.

The bill also increases maximum sentences for people convicted of these crimes. If passed, the bill would also increase penalties for failing to provide the necessities of life and abandoning a child.

Bill C-12 is a reaction to the 1995 case of John Robin Sharpe in British Columbia. Sharpe was found guilty of possession of as many as 400 images of children who prosecutors contended were being exploited sexually.

In March 2002 Sharpe's conviction concerning the images was upheld by the Supreme Court. However, he was ultimately acquitted of related charges that had been filed against him in connection with stories he had written, specifically because those writings were deemed to have artistic merit.

Bill C-12 purports to close the loophole that allows people to create child pornography using artistic merit as a defence and establishes a standard of public good.

If Parliament passes the bill, a person will be found guilty of a child pornography offence when the material or act in question does not serve the public good or where the risk of harm outweighs any public benefit.

Since the Sharpe case, Conservatives, and our predecessors, have called on the federal government to eliminate the artistic merit defence, but replacing it with a public good defence is not the solution to the problem. We must eliminate all defences that justify the criminal possession of child pornography.

The bill would also increase penalties for offences that harm children. The maximum penalty for sexual exploitation would double, from five years to ten years, and the maximum penalty for the abandonment of a child or the failure to provide the necessities of life to a child would more than double, from two years to five years.

These increases in penalties are meaningless, however, if the courts do not impose the sentences. We know by experience that when maximum sentences are raised, there is no corresponding pattern in the actual sentencing practices. What is needed are mandatory minimum sentences. Maximum sentences do not help. When a judge sentences someone for life, which is 25 years, it is never 25 years. Similarly, tougher penalties would probably be a better deterrent to committing a crime. What we need are minimum sentences, truth in sentencing and no conditional sentences for child predators.

Bill C-12 would also create a new category of sexual exploitation that would protect people aged 14 to 18. Courts would focus, not on consent but on whether the relationship is exploitative based on the age difference, or control exerted, and other circumstances. This is not good enough.

It is already against the law for a person in a position of trust or authority or with whom a young person is in a relationship of dependency to be sexually involved with that young person. It is unclear how adding people who are in a relationship with a young person that is exploitative of the young person would add legal protection for young people.

What the Liberals should have done was increase the age of sexual consent, which is what we have been asking for a very long time.

A major shortcoming of the bill is that it fails to raise the age of consent for sexual activity between children and adults, and, shamefully, Canada's is the lowest among all the developed countries.

I fail to see the rationale for permitting adults to engage in any sexual activity with children. The government should raise the age of consent, which is currently set out in section 150.1 of the Criminal Code, from 14 years to 16 years, if not 18 years. Just imagine a grade 9 student giving consent to have sex with a 60 year old person or a 50 year old person.

This is not the Canada I migrated to. We need to do much more to protect our children.

In British Columbia's lower mainland we are all too familiar with the problem of prostitution. Studies have found that 70% to 80% of Canadian prostitutes entered the trade as children. There are literally hundreds of prostitutes under 17 years of age currently working on Vancouver streets. It is very shameful.

The recruitment process for the sex trade in Canada preys on young girls and young boys, specifically targeting those who are at the current age of consent, which is 14.

According to the Children of the Street Society, the majority of parents who call asking for help have children who are 14 years old and are being recruited into the trade. They argue that if the police had the ability to pick up the girls or boys, regardless of their consent, and return them to their families or to take them to a safe house, then many youth would be saved from entering the sex trade.

It is of no use looking at the age of consent from the perspective of the advantaged, critically thinking, well protected 14 year olds. The government has to enact laws that will protect our children.

During my tenure in the House I have watched as family values have been continuously eroded in Parliament. Every time the government introduces any legislation we see family values being eroded, whether it is the definition of marriage, the age of consent or the protection of our children from predators. When will the government listen to Canadians, for the sake of our children and the most vulnerable, and enact laws with teeth?

Bill C-12 is very complex, with cumbersome provisions and it would not make it easier to prosecute sexual predators. The government lacks political will. The Prime Minister should be ashamed for doing so little so late to protect our children and other vulnerable groups.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to participate in the debate this afternoon regarding Bill C-12 and Motion No. 2 which would delete clause 7 of this particular bill.

With respect to the previous speaker, there is no question that we all share the concerns that the bill is intended to address. I do not think there is any doubt about that. We want to protect those most vulnerable within our society, and this is an excellent example of how we can do it.

The way in which the bill has been constructed and brought before the House is appropriate and there is no need for an amendment of the nature that is being brought forward.

Today, when I rise to speak to the bill, I do so in support of the bill itself and to oppose the motion to delete clause 7.

This bill is designed to deal with an amendment to the Criminal Code to protect our children and other vulnerable persons. It is a very broad bill. It also includes a provision to deal with the Canada Evidence Act and proposes a broad package of criminal law reforms that would seek to strengthen not only the criminal justice system in this particular instance, but in the broader instance as well.

The bill is not just a response to children and other vulnerable persons as defined in the limited discussion that has been going on here today. It will actually be broader than that and in particular with respect to bringing forward witnesses and those who would testify in trials.

One of the key elements of the bill is the strengthening of the existing child pornography provisions by broadening the definition of written child pornography and narrowing the existing defences to one defence of public good.

It is very important that when we examine this concept that we look at what is trying to be accomplished here. What we are trying to do is avoid the situation that was described by the previous hon. member when he talked about the Sharpe case. This is important and it does need to be addressed. We are going forward with the bill to narrow that defence to one defence of public good.

The second key element is strengthening protection for young persons against sexual exploitation. There is a great tendency to simply look at issues of this nature as if the child or the young person was in fact the person who ought to have more restrictions placed upon them. What we are really trying to do is broaden the offence to those who would exploit, those who would take advantage of young persons. This is why the definition of sexual exploitation has been put in the bill.

We are also looking at increasing penalties for offences against children. Many times we hear that the ultimate penalties received are not significant enough. However I think that if we were to increase the penalties, it would give the courts much more room to address the issue of sentencing so that one does not necessarily have to go to the maximum on a first offence, which in almost all cases does not occur, but rather it is a graduated process of trying to use the appropriate sentence that fits the crime.

By increasing the sentencing provisions and penalties within the act, we would be allowing greater latitude for the courts. We will be giving that flexibility so they can be most severe with those who deserve the most severe penalty.

Another area in the bill would facilitate testimony by children and other vulnerable victims and witnesses. This is extremely important because when a victim goes through the actual act that is when the victim is created.

It is extremely difficult, then, for that victim to in effect go through explaining before all parties this victimization in a court. Therefore, we need to put in place appropriate measures to minimize this process, which would once again lead to further victimization. So within the bill, there is a process whereby testimony can be given in many forms and various protections and assistance can be brought forward for victims and also for witnesses to these crimes.

Lastly, the bill also deals with the concept of voyeurism. This criminal offence is an offence that is extremely important. Today it seemingly is more important with the advent of more and more electronic devices. In particular, we note that the latest cellphones have cameras attached to them and are able of course to take photographs and then transmit these particular photographs on the Internet. This form of voyeurism and the access it provides because of the very nature of the device is something that we must take very stringent action upon, and in this particular case it is part of the bill.

Child pornography is an issue that is regrettably not a new concern for all hon. members in the House. The sexual exploitation of children--again, society's most vulnerable group--in any form, including through child pornography, is to be condemned.

Bill C-12 recognizes this and proposes amendments to our existing child pornography provisions that will, I believe, serve to better protect children against this form of sexual exploitation. This motion seeks to delete two child pornography reforms proposed by Bill C-12. Bill C-12 proposes to broaden the existing definition of written child pornography to include written material that describes prohibited sexual activity with children where that description is the predominant characteristic of the material and it is done for a sexual purpose.

Second, Bill C-12 proposes to narrow the existing defences into one defence of public good, a term that is now specifically defined in the bill. I know that my hon. friend who spoke before me talked about this issue of public good, but clearly we have to be able to define in certain limited circumstances where in fact it is beneficial to society to have this defence, so that in fact in its simplest form it allows for the proper investigation and prosecution of those who would be participants in this business of pornography.

To say that in fact there should be absolutely no defence is simply not looking at this in a pragmatic way. Under the new law, no defence will be available where the material or act in question does not serve the public good or where it exceeds or goes beyond that which does serve the public good.

The public good defence recognizes that in some instances, such as with the possession of child pornography by police as part of an investigation, as I was just mentioning, such possession serves the public good and should be protected. It also recognizes that art or material that has artistic value can serve the public good but, and unlike the artistic merit defence, Bill C-12's proposed public good defence would not be available for such art where the risk of harm that it poses to society outweighs any potential benefit that it offers.

Canadians want more and better protection for our children against sexual exploitation through child pornography, not the same as or less than what we already have today. Given our ever growing understanding and knowledge of the nature and scope of the problem of child pornography in Canada and around the world, we must hold firm in our resolve, which resolve was unanimously reaffirmed as recently as last week, to take concrete and effective measures to better protect children against sexual exploitation through child pornography.

Accordingly, I do not support the motion and I urge all hon. members to support Bill C-12 as it was passed by the justice committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on February 28, 2003, I presented a petition to the House from my constituents. The petition was signed by 142 people from my riding of Calgary East. The petitioners called upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia or other activities involving pedophilia are outlawed in Canada.

Other members of Parliament have presented similar petitions. This petition is the essence of what the feeling is out there. The feeling is unanimous out there that we need to protect our children. There is no other meaning. It is unanimous that the people of Canada are saying, “Let us protect our children”. We have to take that message very seriously.

Bill C-12 is an attempt to protect our children, but there are flaws in the bill that the Conservative Party cannot support. We believe the bill is not tough enough to protect our children. We get the message from our constituents, and again, that message is--let me repeat it--that we have to protect our children from sexual exploitation.

Bill C-12 does not do that on two bases. One is on the basis of what is called artistic merit. The definition of artistic merit as given by the court's decision can be interpreted as broadly as possible. That is not the message we are getting from the people of Canada. That message should be reflected in this bill: artistic merit should not be a defence for anyone who is abusing the children of Canada. Simple, point of fact, straightforward: the children of Canada need to be protected. They are children. We are their guardians. If we do not protect them, who will? We cannot have any loopholes that say there is a possibility under artistic merit or some other kind of loophole that this exploitation can take place.

I have not come into any kind of contact with child pornography, except once when the Toronto police force came to our caucus and did a presentation on child exploitation. I was stunned. One actually has to know. I commend these officers when they see this day and night. I take my hat off to them and wonder how they can sleep at night when they see all this exploitation taking place.

Those graphic pictures would have shocked anybody. It shocked me such that I got up from there with a clear cut, straightforward, simple resolve that there should be no defence whatsoever when it comes to protecting our children. They can come with any kind of defence or excuse, but it does not exist. When we look at the evidence that is gathered and when the police force show us this horrendous picture of what is happening--and it is happening--then we have to say no.

The other issue is about the age of consent. We in this country have an age of consent which, in anybody's mind, we would say is a form of sexual exploitation. How can we have 14 as an age of consent when everybody else has an age of consent ranging from 16 to 18? The age of consent should be over 16.

I do not understand why the government chose to ignore this specific issue when the former minister of justice, the member from Edmonton, stated quite clearly that she had talked to the provincial ministers and everybody agreed that the age of consent should rise.

I am sorry to say this, but when I read “exploitative” relationship, I see bureaucratic language. Exploitative relationship is bureaucratic wording. Why can we not make the bill simple and clear? We must be clear in this bill: “the age of consent should be this”. It should not say if somebody in an exploitative relationship and then go ahead and give arguments and try to define what the relationship is. All these loopholes come out of this.

Although the bill has come back from the committee, which made some recommendations for changes, the changes in this particular instance do not reflect the will of the people of Canada, which is very simple: stop completely, with no loopholes, the exploitation of the children of Canada.

My party and I will find it very difficult to support this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I believe the hon. President of the Treasury Board is rising on a question of privilege.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

February 18th, 2004 / 6:05 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I am indeed rising on a question of privilege on a matter that arises out of matters that occurred earlier today in the House, and I am prepared, upon you making a finding of a prima facie case of privilege, to move the appropriate motion.

Today in question period, the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough stood up and raised questions with the Prime Minister about actions that he was, as the opposition has been for a while, trying to twist the facts in a manner that allowed people to feel that there was a problem.

He asked a question that he based on a memo. The implication in the question, because the Prime Minister had indicated that certain companies should be added to a list of companies who were able to bid, was that somehow he had fraudulent knowledge because he had done that.

The Prime Minister stood up in response and said that he was quite content to have the whole document tabled in the House and that would be self-explanatory.

The member stood up after question period and said that earlier in question period he had asked the Prime Minister about a document, an internal memo that came from his office in 1994, that pertained to retail debt strategy. He said that the Prime Minister indicated at that time he had no difficulty with that document being tabled. He said that he had a copy of that and he would like to table it in the House today, and he did so.

Upon receiving that document, we had a look at it to verify that it was indeed the document the member tabled, and it was recorded that he had tabled a two page document.

I have a copy of the original document, which I am prepared to table today, which is in fact five pages long. It contains the very explanation the Prime Minister gave, that this was a general document trying to expand the range of companies, not narrow it as was suggested.

However, there is a more serious issue here, and it does not have to do with the political debate. It has to do with the duty of members to come forward forthrightly and honestly to this chamber.

You, Mr. Speaker, would not allow me to question the integrity or the veracity of other members. That would be against our rules, and we do that because we have a duty as members. We are seen as hon. members here and believe to be coming forth honourably.

Unfortunately, when the member puts forward an altered document in some attempt to bolster his case, what the member has done I believe is--

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

He didn't alter the document.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Okay, Mr. Speaker, the document is incomplete.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

An hon. member

That is different.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Members say that it is different. The member in his statement to the House said that he was tabling the document. He only tabled two of five pages. He has a duty to be honest in the House and he has failed in that duty.

When a member comes to the House with false information, when he comes forward with incomplete information, he has committed a contempt of the House.

This, Mr. Speaker, is in many ways little different from the very question we dealt with in committee around the production of incomplete information by the then privacy commissioner. As a matter of information on that, it was found at that time that person no longer had the confidence of the chamber because the information he put forward was incomplete.

The evidence is before you, Mr. Speaker. You have the document, you have the statements of the member and you have the original document which I am tabling now. I would urge you to consider this and help us understand what the duties are on members before the House. Should you agree that there is a prima facie case, I am prepared to move a motion.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, this is not a questions of privilege. It is a complete and utter waste of time of the House.

The member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough stood today, read a statement and said that he would table it. Whatever he had in his hand, whether it be one page, two pages or ten pages, he tabled what he said he would, which is exactly what he did.

The President of the Treasury Board is skating on very thin ice because he was asked to table a document and he did not. He went out of the chamber, so we will never know whether the document, if it is ever tabled, is the document from which he read.

The member, and I am sure he will speak to it, Mr. Speaker, has tabled the document from which he read, whether it is the complete, partial or in some other language. That is what he did, that is what he said he would do, and this is a waste of your time and our time, Mr. Speaker.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, very quickly, the issue--

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

That is not what he said.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Read the blues.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. The hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River has the floor. He wants to make a contribution to the procedural argument we are dealing with at the moment, despite the noise.

The hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue here is whether or not the House has been misled, intentionally or otherwise, by the hon. member. Just to focus with what I believe is great precision on what has happened here, the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough rose in the House and referred to a document, an internal memo. He described it as a document, an internal memo, and he said that he had a copy of that document and would like to table it in the House.

What the member did table in the House was two pages only of a five page document. I do not know and the House does not know if the member knew it was five pages or four pages, but the document that was tabled was not the document, was not the memo. It was selective and partial. I submit that in doing that, the member may have misled the House, either intentionally or not, and if he has done that, this may constitute a matter of privilege. That is the matter that is put before you now.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to respond to the sneak attack of the member opposite in his usual blunderbuss fashion.

The document itself was of course a document that we received confidentially. The two pages that we were in possession of were the totality of the document that we received. If the document is five pages or 10 pages or more, that is more than I have seen. The two pages that were tabled in the House are the only two pages that I was personally in possession of. I referenced it in a question to the right hon. Prime Minister.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

You should have said that.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

How would I refer to pages I did not know existed?

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

It says page one and page three. Page two is missing.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

It is called professionalism.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

The usual tactic of accuse the accuser is what is playing out before the House today.

Obviously my tabling of that document was in response to the Prime Minister's invitation to do so, which I did. Unlike the member opposite who scurried out of the House to make copies, I rose in my place at the conclusion of question period, offered to table the document, two pages which I was in possession of, to which members opposite agreed, and that is the total document that I was in possession of, the two pages.

This is a complete distraction, a rabbit-tracks tactic that the government is obviously up to here.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, if we are to accept the explanation given by the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, he must still explain why he only had pages 1 and 3 in his possession.

He should have noticed that there was a page 2. He can claim that he did not know that there was a page 4 and a page 5, but he certainly knew that there was a page 2.

I maintain, as did the President of the Treasury Board and my colleague, that the member voluntarily and intentionally misled the House. He had to know that there were at least three pages and that he was tabling only two of them. He should have mentioned that, to his knowledge, it was a three-page document and that he had only two pages in his possession.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I find the comments made by the member simply remarkable.

The member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough stood up and said, “I have the document. It is two pages and I am going to tender it”. If the member was trying to mislead the House, would he actually table it? No, he would do what Liberals do and hide the document. The member stood up and put his document on the table. Let the President of the Treasury Board put forward the document that he keeps on hiding.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I think we have heard the argument on this. The Chair seems to have got the drift thoroughly.

The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River, the President of the Treasury Board and the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine all made interventions on this subject on behalf of the government. We also heard from the hon. member for St. John's West, the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and the hon. member for Provencher on behalf of the opposition. We also heard from other members of the House.

I believe that the Chair has heard enough on this point to be able to take the matter under consideration.

I will get back to the House in due course and give a decision on the matter.

On a point of order, the hon. member for Peace River.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, now that you have dealt with a matter raised by the President of the Treasury Board, I would ask that you request the President of the Treasury Board to table the document that he read in the House today. He scurried out of the House so he did not have to present it this afternoon.

I think the rule should apply in the same way to the President of the Treasury Board who read from a document and then did not present it to the House. Here is an opportunity for him to do that. I would suggest that he be called to account to present the document.