moved that Bill C-471, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (sexual assault on child--dangerous offenders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in debate on my private member's Bill C-471. If enacted, the bill would amend sections 752 to 761 of the Criminal Code, automatically making anyone convicted of two or more sexual offences against a child a dangerous offender.
With Bill C-471, the onus would be placed on the individual designated a dangerous offender to provide the grounds or arguments against such a designation.
Furthermore, Bill C-471 would also amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, restricting the release of the offender.
Under Bill C-471, the National Parole Board shall not grant parole and shall not grant unescorted temporary absences or statutory release to an offender who has been designated a dangerous offender under section 753 of the Criminal Code, unless the board has first received at least two opinions following thorough psychiatric assessment of the offender. The assessors must be of the opinion that the offender, if released, “is not likely to commit another offence” and “will not pose a threat to persons under the age of eighteen years”.
This private member's bill was prompted by the fact that our current laws do not, in my opinion, deal appropriately with those who pose ongoing risks to society, especially those who pose ongoing risks to the most vulnerable of our society, our children.
To illustrate this point, I would like to refer of the case of Walter Jacobson. Over a 40 year period, this sadistic pedophile was convicted 60 times and yet was never classified as a dangerous offender. Jacobson, who is currently incarcerated for a series of sex related crimes in Kingston and surrounding area, including the violent rape of a 16 year old girl, is scheduled for parole in March 2005. The last time this rapist was paroled, he went out and reoffended.
Why was an application designating Jacobson a dangerous offender never made? The offences for which he was convicted in 1999 were convictions dealing with criminal harassment, uttering death threats and making indecent telephone calls to young, teenaged girls.
These offences did not entitle the Crown to seek to designate him a dangerous offender because these particular offences do not carry a maximum sentence or a maximum term of at least 10 years.
Offenders can be designated dangerous offenders, which permits indefinite sentences, only if they are convicted of a serious personal injury offence and they are a danger to the life, safety or the physical or mental well-being of others. The offender must be facing a sentence of 10 years or more to be deemed a dangerous offender.
Jacobson was not designated a dangerous offender because, as one paper said, and I quote:
--the sad fact is Jacobson isn't the problem. He's the symptom of a justice system that does not know how to deal with repeat child sex offenders, how to rehabilitate them or what to do with them when their sentences are up.
Experts tell us that the least likely offenders to be rehabilitated are those offenders who are sexual predators, especially pedophiles. I will quote another document:
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 with a non-sexual offence. However, treatment programs for sexual offenders are sorely lacking.
Financial figures from a few years ago showed the federal government spending approximately $98 million to incarcerate sex offenders and only $2 million a year on treatment programs....It is the norm, when it should be the exception, that convicted sexual offenders return to communities without any counselling or rehabilitation therapy.
I know the Liberal government recognizes and agrees with those findings regarding sex offenders because the statements I just finished reading were statements from an old document entitled “Liberal Perspective on Crime and Justice Issues”. It comes straight from a Liberal document.
The information given was fully supported by a number of studies that repeatedly indicated that sex offenders had one of the highest recidivism rates of any criminal group. An estimated 40% of sex offenders go out and reoffend within five years.
As well, research indicates that offender treatment programs have shown limited results. In fact, practitioners in the field of sex offender treatment do not claim to cure the sex offender but would rather suggest that they would do their best to risk manage the offender.
In light of that information I would strongly suggest to the House that if we are going to err at all we should err on the side of caution. I believe that when there is any doubt at all that pedophiles will reoffend, we need to keep them incarcerated and behind bars. The only way we can achieve this measure of protection, protection for the most vulnerable members of our society, is to automatically make all those convicted of two or more sexual offences against a child to be automatically deemed dangerous offenders.
Another case to illustrate my point and substantiate the need for the legislation is that of Karl Toft, a name that is well-known in the country. Karl Toft, who perhaps is Canada's worst ever pedophile, was released over a year ago into a halfway house in Edmonton after serving 11 years of a 13 year sentence in prison.
After his arrest in 1991, Toft denied abusing boys over the 20 year stint that he was a guard at Kingsclear Training School in New Brunswick. However, later, when much came to light, he plea bargained a deal for a 13 year sentence, pleading guilty to 34 charges that included sexual interference, sexual assault and buggery.
As the years passed, Toft's count of victims rose. It rose to 80 victims and then to 100, 150 and finally to 200. However to date 233 compensation claims for sexual and physical abuse have been settled since Toft's incarceration. One victim believes that the 233 cases are only the tip of the iceberg, claiming that that this sadistic pedophile, Karl Toft, abused approximately 700 young wards of the province. Yet Karl Toft, who is scheduled for full parole in the very near future, has never been deemed a dangerous offender. That is a sad indictment on our system.
Another pedophile who has never been deemed a dangerous offender was Martin Dubuc of Laval, Quebec. This career sex offender was first convicted in 1986 for molesting boys on a hockey team that he coached. After serving his time in prison he did not let a lifetime ban on coaching in Quebec stop him. He simply changed locales, changed communities and became a coach and eventually president of a minor hockey association in southwest Montreal. This individual then slithered his way into the school system becoming a substitute teacher until he was arrested and pleaded guilty to threatening several boys aged 10 to 13.
The case of Dubuc is but one chilling example of how predators with long criminal records weasel and worm their way into positions of trust and authority solely for the purpose of bringing harm and victimizing children. The only way to stop these sadistic predators is to ensure they are held behind bars and that the protection of society remains our guiding principle.
How many more children will be victimized before the government takes account? How many more children will be victimized before the government wakes up and does something about repeat offenders like Karl Toft, Walter Jacobson, Martin Dubuc, Clifford Olson and Paul Bernardo, all of whom have never been deemed dangerous offenders? It is amazing.
How many more children's lives will be destroyed before the government realizes that there is only one way to keep our children safe? Repeat child sex offenders should be incarcerated indefinitely until there is absolutely no doubt or very minimal risk to putting them back out on the streets.
I implore all members on all sides of the House and in all parties to support my private member's bill which is without precedence.
Recently voters in a Swiss referendum backed the introduction of what is being deemed one of Europe's harshest laws on violent criminals and pedophiles. Under the proposals it says that “extremely violent and dangerous criminals who cannot be treated successfully with therapy” would be locked away for life “unless scientific findings show they have been cured or are no longer dangerous”.
In Switzerland the referendum vote was actually initiated by a victims' support group called Light of Hope which was founded by two sisters, one whose daughter was abducted, raped, choked and left for dead. However, under the Swiss system of direct democracy, anybody can initiate a referendum as long as the proposals do not violate the law. What has to happen in Switzerland is that there has to be a petition or a referendum made and 100,000 signatures have to be collected within 18 months.
Although some legal experts have argued that the proposal may violate the European convention on human rights if the laws were strictly interpreted, the sisters went out and collected 195,000 signatures from supporters of the law.
I would argue that what I propose may be similar in nature. I argue that this would be well accepted by the Canadian public, and I also would argue that it would withhold any type of challenge.
I would say that for the sake of the children, of society and the safety and security within our communities, we should support this type of legislation and this bill. I again ask all members of the House to support and vote for this bill, a bill that is solely for the purpose of keeping our children safe.