House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was religious.


The House resumed from May 19 consideration of the motion.

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the last 45 minutes of debate on Motion No. 221. The motion reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should restrict sexual activity between adolescents and adults by amending the Criminal Code to change the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age.

I am a big fan of private members' initiatives. Over the last 12 years I have had a number them and I have often thought that the best outcome of a private member's initiative is not for it to proceed through all stages, even though this is a motion and this would be its final stage, but it is to have the government adopt the intent of the proposal by a private member to ensure that the rights and interests of all are being protected.

It would be easy to argue that Motion No. 221 does not in fact help that process. It would suggest, for instance, that a 15 year old and a 17 year old engaging in sexual activity would be a problem but the problem here is the definition of sexual activity. Kissing, in fact, would constitute sexual activity.

The rationale of the motion presumes any sexual activity, which is the problem, but the intent is well-founded.

I have spoken many times in this place about children and about child pornography particularly. I do not think there is any disagreement in this place that the existence of child pornography means that a child must have been abused. The problem with private members' initiatives is that the only way for a private member's initiative to be successful is for it to be somewhat simpler in linear terms rather than trying to get a comprehensive solution to something.

Let us take for instance, Bill C-2. Currently the age of consent to sexual activity is 18 years of age where the relationship is exploitive. This is the difference between Motion No. 221 and Bill C-2. That exploitive activity involves prostitution, pornography or where there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency. Where none of these exploitive circumstances exist, the age of consent is currently 14. What the member seeks to do is to increase that from 14 to 16.

However the key here is that any non-consensual sexual activity, regardless of age, is an assault.

Under Bill C-2 the courts would be directed to look at some broader characteristics. I know the committee will be reporting that bill back soon. I am sure the member's motion, Motion No. 221, and the debate that it has brought to this place, will add further to the passing of Bill C-2, which I know members in this place will want to do.

With regard to the issue of an exploitive relationship, Bill C-2 directs the court to consider broader indicators, which, unfortunately, have not been specifically put in Motion No. 221 but I am sure have been included in some of the debate already. They include the age of the young person, any difference between the age of the young person and the other person, the evolution of that relationship and the degree of control or influence asserted over that young person. We can see that there are some other elements other than simply age.

As we look at the debate that we have had in the past, I do not think there is much question in this place that there is a serious concern about the linkage between sexual activity at a younger age and the exploitive sexual activity that Bill C-2 tries to address.

In this particular case, the bill provides a clear direction to the courts to infer that a relationship is exploitive of the young person after examining the nature and circumstances of the relationship and the youth himself or herself.

Motion No. 221 is an important motion brought forward by the member because it gives us the opportunity to raise the serious concerns that we have with regard to the exploitation of children. Although this may also relate to sexual activity, which is not of the character that we talked about during the debates on Bill C-2 and with regard to child pornography, it does represent a proxy to do the logical extension and to look at the linkages between the earlier sexual activity, however defined, and the risk of young people becoming involved in some of the exploitive activity, which is what this House has dealt with to a greater extent.

Bill C-2 intends to better protect our youth. I believe the member is thinking of our youth in bringing this matter forward. I want to remind the House that motions come before the House in the context that the government consider the advisability of taking some course of action. It means that no matter what else we do, the debate that takes place with regard to Motion No. 221 should provide greater input as we deal with other activities.

However, because Bill C-2 is at a point where it will to be coming back from committee and there will be an opportunity to debate it, the member will find that much of the discussion that is taking place here will also be reflected in the discussion on Bill C-2.

I thank the member for participating in private members' business. It is an important tool that members of Parliament have to express their concerns about some of the social and moral issues of the day. There is no simple solution for a complex problem but if there is, probably it is wrong. In this context, it would be unwise and maybe imprudent to suggest that the member's motion is not comprehensive enough. In fact, private members' bills and motions often are very pointed in terms of areas to try to advance larger issues.

I thank the member for raising the issue and I hope, as a consequence of her contribution, the debate on defining sexual activity and, even greater, the exploitation of our children due to sexual activity, will be advanced as a consequence of her efforts.

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to pass on my thanks to the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells for bringing the motion forward. It is a timely motion, given the government's failure to adequately address this most serious problem. Many advocacy groups across the country, certainly in my riding, have been asking the government to take serious measures on the issue. As usual, we have seen a dithering government and justice department fail to actually do anything concrete.

The hon. member for Mississauga South talked about the government's own bill, Bill C-2. Bill C-2 fails in many respects. Most notably, it fails to protect a vulnerable category of children, those aged 14 to 16, from the grasp of sexual predators. Children at these ages can easily become the target of people on the Internet and of neighbourhood offenders who seek out vulnerable children to do them harm. Every day parents are horrified to learn that Canadian law fails to provide them with a legal recourse.

In most democracies, including the United Kingdom, Australia and most American states, adults are prohibited from having sexual relationships with children less than 16 and sometimes even 17 years of age. In Canada, a child may legally consent to sex with an adult at age 14.

The member for Mississauga South talked about how the current legislation deals with exploitative measures such as prostitution, pornography and other things. I would suggest to that member that this definition of exploitation is too narrow. We all know that children at 14 and 15 years of age are susceptible to types of exploitation that are not listed in the bill.

We can image a 35 or 45 year old adult who preys on young persons, manipulating their minds and certain circumstances. We can think of many examples where young women in poor households in poor neighbourhoods are being groomed, a term used among child care workers, where adults buy gifts for children, take them to the movies and show them a side of life that maybe they do not see in their neighbourhoods in an attempt to lure them back to their homes to do them evil.

Under the current definition for legal consent for sexual relationships, a young boy or girl of perhaps 14 or 15 years of age can legally give that consent. In other words, the adult would be off the hook. However, is that young person really giving consent or is he or she just falling victim to the circumstances that the adult predator is basically manipulating?

Many child advocacy groups, provincial attorneys general, premiers, the RCMP and countless other organizations are calling on the government to immediately raise the age of consent. In fact, the former attorney general for the province of British Columbia and the current member for Vancouver South got together with the justice ministers from the other provinces and territories, and unanimously agreed that the age of consent should be raised to 16. Now that this hon. member is a federal politician and serves the Crown, his resolve on this issue appears to have waned.

The Liberals' reasoning for not raising the age of sexual consent is the worry that changing the law may criminalize sexual activity between young people, but that is a red herring. It is another excuse for not addressing fundamental problems in society. There are many other jurisdictions that have close in age provisions where young teenagers who are sexually active, classmates who have sex, for example, would not be subject to the same criminal prosecution.

Some hon. members opposite do not think this is a serious debate and would rather discuss perhaps corporate advertising. On April 23, 2002, the Canadian Alliance put forward a motion calling on the government to raise the age of consent for sexual activity from 14 to 16. Members of the NDP and the Liberal Party voted against and ultimately defeated the motion. The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona said in the House:

When the day comes that we have that kind of debate in here and we go after the corporations for the way in which they are constantly, every day, in every house, on every TV set exploiting sexuality, then we will have a real debate on our hands.

This is a real debate. This is not something we should ignore and talk about something else straight away. This is an important issue for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, and for thousands of parents and families who want their children to have protection.

The security and safety of our children is a serious debate. All Canadian children should be protected from sexual exploitation by an adult before they are even old enough to drive a car. However, it would appear that this is not the case according to the Liberal-NDP coalition.

Canada's Criminal Code already permits children younger than 14 year of age to consent to sexual acts as long as their partners are less than two years older than they are. This close in age provision is already in the Criminal Code.

Rather than a straightforward, effective position on raising the age of consent to 16 years of age, Bill C-2 would create a situation where a judge would be obliged to consider a complicated test in evaluating the sexual relationship between a child as young as 14. This test would involve the consideration of criteria including the age difference between the accused and the young person, the evolution of the relationship, and the degree of control or influence the adult had over the young person.

Neither the existing Canadian law nor the proposals in Bill C-2 effectively address the sexual exploitation of children under the age of 16 by adults. Only by raising the age of consent can the law truly protect children.

I applaud groups such as Beyond Borders and Child Find that are bringing concerns such as these into the public domain. They have been fighting for the rights of children across Canada and should be commended for their fight on this issue. They realize that childhood is too precious to be taken away. It is my hope that with the help of advocacy groups across Canada and with the will of the House the age of consent will be raised.

Concerned parents have come into my office and talked about situations they have heard about either firsthand or secondhand involving young teenagers 14 and 15 years old who have been taken advantage of by an adult. I have to explain to them that under Canada's existing laws the justice system is incapable of addressing that problem. Sexual predators, 45, 50 or 60 years old, are within their legal rights to engage in sexual activity with a 14 or 15 year old. Many examples of adult exploitation of young children have already been mentioned.

The Liberal definition of sexual exploitation is too narrow. I would contend that a 14 or 15 year old child cannot legally give consent in many circumstances because of the different ways adults can entice them to engage in this activity. For instance, adults can groom young people, entice them, and spend a lot of time luring them away from their families and into their homes. A lot of documentation has been provided which shows people use the Internet to prowl and find young children who are susceptible to this.

I have spoken with police officers in my riding who have told me that they do not have the tools to fight this sort of thing. That has always been a problem with the Liberal government. It does not give our police officers the tools they need to make our neighbourhoods safe, to protect our young children from a serious blight in our society, adults who prey on young and vulnerable children.

I would like to thank my colleague for putting the motion forward. It is something that this party has been advocating for a long time because we listen to families. We listen to parents who are concerned about the safety of their children. We listen to police organizations that fight the front line fights, who go through the justice system and find flaws in our legislation. They talk to us and we listen to them. We listen to the advocacy groups that are concerned about the quality of life in our neighbourhoods and the safety of our children.

We listen to all those groups, but the Liberals do not. I do not know who they are listening to. I do not know who is setting the policy directives in the justice department who would argue against protecting 14 and 15 year old children from this class of predator. Anyone who preys on young children is the lowest form of criminal.

I do not know who the Liberals are listening to, but the Conservative Party is listening to ordinary Canadians, to families and police organizations. We will continue to listen to them. We will continue to propose legislation that will make our neighbourhoods safer.

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today on behalf of my party to oppose this motion. As usual, from the lack of knowledge that comes from the Conservative side of the House, I am not doing this on the basis of what the Conservatives think.

They should be aware, and obviously most of them sitting over there are not, that the amendments that were moved by their justice critic in committee were supported by myself, as a representative of my party, to change the age of consent but at the same time to build in protection. As opposed to again what the Conservatives normally do, I thought it would be best if we dealt with the facts of the situation we are confronted with in this country which is the need to have a defence in the legislation that would not criminalize a large percentage of our youth population who are engaging in sexual activity with other youth of roughly the same age.

I heard from the last speaker, who obviously is not being briefed by his own justice critic, about the present age of consent and the defence of a person being within two years of that age. That was not the amendment and that was the reason we opted to support the Conservative amendments.

The Conservative amendment would have a gap of five years. I believe the justice critic for the Conservative Party moved the amendment to five years as opposed to two, which seems to be satisfying the mover of this motion. If we were to look at the statistics of sexual activity among youth in this country, one would be criminalizing approximately 42% or 43% of male youth who are engaging in sexual activity if we went with the two year gap. In fact, there is that much of a difference.

There is always the stereotype that it is the male who is older. In fact, in 33% of the cases the female is older and in 43% of the cases it is the male. We had a potential for criminalizing literally hundreds of thousands of youth. The figures we were able to gather showed that roughly 800,000 youth in the age group of 14 to 16 are engaging in full sexual activity.

We would be potentially criminalizing somewhere in the range of 40% of them if we simply adopted this motion. That is what we are confronted with. I realize those facts may be somewhat disturbing to certain people, but that is the reality and as legislators we must deal with that reality.

We were very clear. We supported the amendments to raise the age to 16 and build in this other defences, so that we would not be criminalizing a large percentage of our youth.

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Did you share part of your speech with him, Paul?

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

The member keeps prattling on about wanting a copy my speech. This is all being recorded and perhaps he should be made aware that in fact he can get a copy when I am finished.

The other point that needs to be raised here with regard to this motion is that there is also about 6% of the age group that are beyond the five year differential. We are also looking at potentially criminalizing those, but the determination was made, and rightfully so, that the age gap of five years was the appropriate one. It reflected the reality of what is occurring in terms of defending it, but at the same time it is saying that once a person moves beyond that five year age gap it becomes a statutory prohibition and will be subject to criminal penalty as a result.

I want to make one additional point that came up repeatedly in the debate in the justice committee around the age of consent. We have already heard from the member from Mississauga that the government's position, supported by the Bloc, was that the exploitive dependency relationship is the one we have to prohibit. I analyzed that from the perspective of asking what in fact is happening now, because various Criminal Code sections now use the same type of analysis and Criminal Code framework to prohibit this type of relationship.

However, we heard repeatedly from crown prosecutors, some of whom prosecute only criminal offences involving sexual activity, and from a number of the police forces that this methodology, this infrastructure of the Criminal Code, in fact does not work. It simply is not a methodology that can be used with any type of reasonable success in our criminal justice system.

As I say, we heard that repeatedly. As a result of that evidence from the prosecutors and police forces at various levels in the country, it seemed obvious that the government had to shift its position. Unfortunately, it was not prepared to do that at the justice committee. Those amendments failed because of the positions of the government and the Bloc in opposing them.

I believe that debate has to continue. Bill C-2 is now waiting for royal assent, I believe. It went through. Perhaps I should point out that it was with our agreement and the agreement of the Conservatives that it was put into play.

What is going to happen now? There will be a review after five years, I believe, and we will then have to come back and find solid proof that what the prosecutors, the crown attorneys, and the police officers were telling us is in fact true: that it is not going to be effective in dealing with those cases where there are exploitation and dependency, the classic of the young person being exploited, oftentimes right into prostitution.

I firmly believe that the system now being put in place is not going to work and that we will be back here in five or six years and will move to what the Conservative justice critic moved at that time, which we supported. I believe that very strongly.

In conclusion, I want to make one final point. The decision of making this move has to be put in the proper context of dealing with the age of consent. The reality is that when we look at other jurisdictions that have moved to increase the age of consent there has not been a significant increase in the number of convictions, even when they were very solid in what the age of consent should be.

What it has some effect on, and perhaps this is the most positive thing we can expect, is that there has been a communication by the legislature of that jurisdiction of its disapproval. I will not say it is significant, but it has had some effect on lowering the sexual activity among our youth.

We heard from psychologists during the course of the committee hearings that most youth, particularly those who are 14 or 15 years of age, are not in a position to properly judge whether they are ready for full sexual activity. By communicating this as a legislature, we have some impact on those youth. Again, it is not significant in terms of overall percentages, but it does communicate from us as legislators the need for them to perhaps have second thoughts about what type of sexual activity they will be engaged in.

For that reason, we believe that the age of consent should be raised so long as we have that defence ingrained.

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member from British Columbia for bringing forward this very timely private member's bill. It is her first year in the House of Commons. She has been a very constructive and active member of the House of Commons and this is just another example of the fine work she has been doing as a member of Parliament.

Some of the Liberal and NDP members and some of Bloc members, I guess, would like to believe that 14 year olds are mature enough to make these sorts of decisions, that they are not children anymore, that they are almost like adults and they are free to make those decisions. What really flies in the face of that kind of logic, or lack of logic, is the whole area of the law. In its wisdom, the Liberal government said a long time ago that if people between the ages of 14 and 18 commit a criminal offence they have to be treated differently, not like the adult population. The government brought in the young offenders legislation and amendments and changes over the years, so that in dealing with criminal offences there are different age categories to be considered.

I noticed the other day in a confectionery that anyone who sells tobacco to someone under the age of 19 will face a $4,000 fine. I think it is the Liberal government in Ontario that put this law in place; someone under 19 getting tobacco is so serious that we have to impose a $4,000 fine on anyone who sells it. In some jurisdictions the age to be able to drive an automobile is now 18. People have to be 18 years old to vote in a federal election. The Criminal Code actually imposes obligations on parents to provide the necessaries of life to a child up to a minimum of 16 years of age and most provincial jurisdictions impose that obligation up to the age of 18.

However, the Liberals, in their wisdom, say it is okay for a person 14 years old to get into a sexual relationship with an adult person, someone in their thirties or forties.

Let us look at a few examples. I think it is always good to look at examples. Members opposite find technicalities; they say this is too complicated, that we do not understand the technicalities.

In my constituency two or three years ago, three young men in their twenties picked up a 12 year old girl, gave her beer, drank with her, went out into the country and apparently had sexual intercourse with her. They were in their twenties and she was 12 years of age.

There were two separate trials. One man was convicted on the first go. The other two had a very prominent lawyer in Saskatchewan to defend them. He is a very good lawyer and he knows about the technicalities the Liberals are talking about. They are made for defence lawyers, who like Liberals because when the lawyers get into court the Liberals give them the cracks in the door to create reasonable doubt and so on so that their clients can walk out innocent.

The lawyer pounded away at one fact throughout the trial: that this girl looked a lot older than 12 years of age, that she could have been taken for a 14 year old or even a 15 year old. The lawyer pounded away at that issue. As well, the boys indicated that they thought she was over 14 years of age. It went to the jury. Let us guess what the jury did. I do not know what kind of reasoning the jury went through, but armed with this kind of law the Liberals have put into place, it came back with a not guilty verdict.

Fortunately, the Court of Appeal in Saskatchewan, in its wisdom, reversed that decision and has ordered a new trial, but where the second trial is going to go, I have no idea. There was a 12 year old girl who was seriously victimized because Parliament did not have laws in place to protect our young people.

Then we have people like the member for Mississauga South saying that this is too complicated, that the Conservatives do not understand the niceties. I can assure members that the prosecutor and the police officers involved in that case would not buy into the arguments presented by the member from the NDP, who was saying that the police, the prosecutors and everybody in this country are solidly behind the arguments those people over there are raising. That is total and absolute nonsense.

I practised law for 25 years in rural Saskatchewan before I came to this House. Back in the mid-1990s, just about everyone knew everyone in those rural communities. An excellent couple in their late thirties come to my office one day in tears; I knew that couple to be a very good family and outstanding members of their community. What was their story? They had come back from the RCMP. The RCMP had spent two or three days looking into their case and had told them they could not do anything for them.

Their daughter, 14 years old, had taken up a relationship with a person in his late forties. The parents were both in tears in my office. I said that the police had to be wrong. I said that I was not an expert in this area but I would look into it that evening, get back to them the next day and tell them that there had to be a remedy, that our lawmakers in this country, even Liberals, would provide parents with a tool or a remedy for that kind of abhorrent situation.

No, there was not. I went through all the law I could find. There was nothing there to help these people, not a single thing. There were more tears when I told them that. I was the messenger. When I practised law quite often I would get upset with the law because I was the messenger, the one always condemned for delivering the message.

However, it is people like the Liberal members of this government who have the power to make laws in this country that could help the police, society, parents and, more important, our young people in this country. The Liberals fail miserably on these counts. They come up with all these technical loophole arguments as their way of getting around this.

I am really disappointed with the member for Mississauga South. He has always advocated being a strong pro-family person, a person who is always strong on these issues. For him to today get up in this House and raise all these technical reasons as to why this bill should not move ahead is just absolutely shameful. I think his constituents should clearly understand where this guy really is coming from.

I want to raise another issue. It goes back to last year's election campaign. Unfortunately in that campaign a media release came out from the Conservative Party which insinuated or implied that Liberals and the Prime Minister were supportive of child pornography. I disagreed with the headline of that media release, but I think that once we take away the headline and read the text of the news release, the shoe definitely fits this Liberal government. It fits this Prime Minister.

This is not the first time that this type of motion has been before the House of Commons. What is the Prime Minister's voting record on this issue? What is the voting record of most of these Liberal members on this issue? They vote against changing the age from 14 to 16. They say that it is too complicated and we are oversimplifying things.

The Liberals supported an NDP budget bill. They just poured $4.6 billion into four nameless programs with no systems or plans for delivery and so on. With the stroke of a pen they just said that they would shell out $4.6 billion on those four programs and figure it out later. They said not to worry about technicalities or complications. However, what about giving parents like the people I am talking about the power to protect their children? What about giving the police that kind of power? I am inviting the Liberals to do the right thing here for once.

This has not been a good spring for anybody. This is one issue I think where right-minded people could get together, do the right thing and help our parents, our young people, our police, our society, our prosecutors and a whole lot more in our society.

We could get away from this neo-Liberal agenda of undermining family institutions and in society. That is the real hidden agenda in our country. It is the neo-Liberal agenda that is undermining our traditions, our long-standing institutions, our families, our police, our parents and our children in our society. That is the danger in our society.

Once Liberals have finished with the marriage bill, then who knows what the next thing is. They probably will go after our churches and take away their tax exemption status. They may even outlaw freedom of speech in those churches, if it has not done that already.

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join the debate on Motion No. 221, which proposes to restrict sexual activity between adolescents and adults by amending the Criminal Code to raise the age of consent to sexual activity from 14 to 16 years of age.

We all recognize the importance of providing increased protection to youth against sexual exploitation or predatory conduct. However, I do not believe that Motion No. 221 can meaningfully and effectively achieve this objective.

The government's approach to this issue, very seriously reflected in Bill C-2, protection of children and other vulnerable persons, is more comprehensive, more effective and far more responsive to this serious issue. While Motion No. 221 proposes raising the age at which a young person can consent to be exploited, the government's position is clear. We do not accept that young persons can ever consent to being exploited.

Bill C-2 proposes to provide all youth between 14 and 18, not just 14 and 15-year-olds, with enhanced protection against sexual exploitation through the creation of a new prohibition. The new prohibition would require the courts to infer that a relationship with a young person is exploitative of that a young person by looking to the nature and circumstances of that relationship.

The bill would require the court to consider specific indicators of exploitation of each young person, including the age of the young person, any difference in age between the young person and the other person, the evolution of the relationship and the degree of control or influence exerted over the young person.

A number of reasons have been cited in support of Motion No. 221 for raising the age of consent. For example, young persons need to be better protected against being lured for a sexual purpose of the Internet. The Criminal Code was amended in 2002 for exactly that: to create a new prohibition against the use of the Internet to lure a child for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against that child.

The proposed new prohibition against sexual exploitation in Bill C-2 will further strengthen this protection. It directs the court to specifically consider the evolution of the relationship, which could include, for example, whether it evolved secretly over the Internet.

Another reason cited in support of raising the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age for non-predatory or non-exploitative sexual activity is that it would better protect these youth against being recruited into the sex trade or prostitution related activities.

This is difficult to understand because the age of consent for exploitative sexual conduct, including for prostitution, is already 18 years of age. I do not see how raising the age of consent for non-exploitative conduct from 14 to 16 years can better protect youth in this regard. Moreover, not only is the age of this conduct already 18 years, but the existing penalty for this type of conduct is very significant. Under subsection 212(2.1) of the Criminal Code, anyone who uses force or the threat of force to coerce a young person into prostitution faces a mandatory minimum penalty of five years imprisonment, up to a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

Another reason given in support of Motion No. 221 is that 14 and 15 year olds are too immature to make informed choices about whether to engage in sexual activity and with whom they should engage in such activity.

Consider how the existing criminal law treats and recognizes the developing maturity and capacity of young persons. The age of criminal responsibility is 12 years. The age at which a young person may be subject to an adult sentence for committing a serious violent offence is 14 years. The age of consent to non-exploitative sexual activity is 14 years. The age of consent to exploitative or predatory sexual activity is 18 years.

While it is true that society uses other non-criminal measures to regulate other aspects of the conduct young persons, it would be completely inept to compare, for example, the regulation of when a young person is allowed to drive a car to the criminalization of a young person's engagement in consensual, non-exploitative sexual activity.

I am sure there are many views on what age and under what circumstances young persons should engage in sexual activity. The fact is young persons do engage in sexual activity. On May 3, Statistics Canada's publication, The Daily, reported that by the age of 14 or 15, about 13% of Canadian adolescents have had sexual intercourse. The figure for boys and girls was similar, 12% and 13% respectively. Presumably, they are engaging in other forms of sexual activity at an even earlier age.

How should we respond to this? I believe we should be responding strongly through education, by providing more and better sex education and counselling to young persons to discourage this behaviour. This is far more realistic and has greater potential to protect our young people. We should respond to this by criminalizing those persons who seek out and exploit young persons instead of criminalizing young persons themselves for engaging in sexual activity.

Motion No. 221 focuses on the conduct of the young person. It focuses on their consent to be sexually exploited and it ignores the reality that young persons do engage in sexual activity, from kissing to sexual intercourse. Motion No. 221 would criminalize such typical consensual sexual activity between a 15 and a half year old boy and 16 or 17 year old girlfriend.

As I said at the outset, although I strongly support the objective of providing increased protection to youth against sexual exploitation, I do not support Motion No. 221 because it does not achieve this objective. The bottom line is that Bill C-2 is comprehensive and goes further to protect our young people.

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was not intending to speak today, but listening to the debate has triggered a response in my heart that says I should be getting up to say a few things.

I am very concerned about what is happening in our country with respect to our young people. As members know, I worked for many years as an instructor at the college level. I have had many involvements with young people and children over the years in my capacity as a volunteer as well as a professional. It is absolutely necessary for us to give careful consideration to what we do in this Parliament because it affects the well-being of our children and families in the future.

I want to commend my colleague for putting forward the motion. It addresses an issue which the Liberal government is continually ignoring. It keeps whitewashing the solutions, saying that it will solve the problems. It keeps skirting the issue, not getting down to it.

The motion my colleague has put forward addresses the issue of adults having sexual activity with children, with young people. The Liberals are missing the point on this. They keep coming up with these specious arguments, such as it is going to make it criminal if a 14 year old kisses a 15 year old. This is not about that. This is about adults abusing and attacking our young people, our children. It simply and plainly should not happen.

However, as we all know, some people in our society, even in Canada, this wonderful country, are not unselfish and they do not look for the best good. They are in fact selfish. They look for ways in which they can gain sexual pleasure from whomever. That is why we have these limp laws on things like prostitution. It is against the law to talk about it but it is not against the law to do it.

My goodness, why are we not going after the men who prey upon these women? Why are we not going after these adults who would sexually abuse our children and our young people? It is atrocious that in this wonderful country of ours, we offer so little protection for our young people and children.

I learned a principle many years ago. I knew about this even before I became a member of Parliament, and that is we cannot pass a law that will make people good. The purpose of the law is to restrain those who are not good, who are evil, The purpose of the law is to stop those people from exploiting our young people and children who do not have a built-in moral compass that prevents them from doing it.

I am appalled having listened to the speeches from the other side. They are speaking against the motion my colleague has put forward, which would strengthen the protection of our young people and children. It is particularly important because most of the young people who are exploited are young women.

The Liberals over there are always talking about women's rights and equality. They say they are all for it. However, in this case they are totally ignoring young women who are, for the most part, the victims of this exploitation. They are just children at that stage. They need the protection of the law. They need to have some restraint on those people who would use and abuse these beautiful young girls. What a shame we are permitting this to happen in our country.

Every once in a while we get accused on this side of being angry. I was thinking about that the other day. It was in the media again that we Conservatives were always angry. I contend just the opposite. I believe in happiness, joy and fulfilment, but I believe in it for others as well. Therefore, when I express what could be construed as anger, it is a justifiable righteous anger against that which is inherently wrong. I will not apologize for that.

We need to have people who stand up for what is right and against what is wrong. I will be one of those people. I have tried to be that in my years as a member of Parliament and certainly in all my years before that as a father, a grandfather, an instructor and as a leader of young people in different organizations.

I contend that we need to support the member's motion to send a message that is unequivocal to some 40-year-old who would exploit one of our young people for his own sexual pleasure. I cannot wrap my head around that. Where have we gone in our society?

As I said at the beginning of my speech, I am speaking extemporaneously. I do not have a prepared speech because I did not get my staff to do a lot of research. However, I remember a few years ago when an adult from the United States came up to either New Brunswick or Nova Scotia and lured a girl he had met on the Internet. He got her to a motel and had sex with her. Because she was 14, the 40-year-old walked away scot-free. He was able to persuade her that she wanted to do it. That is why she went to the motel with him.

A 40-year-old enticed a 14-year-old and he walked free in Canada. If that same man would have done what he did in his own home state, he would have been in jail. We should not have let him out of the country until he had served about 50 years for that atrocious deed.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the Liberals are wimps. It is time we stand up and protect our young people and our children.

I urge the members opposite not to just read the speeches that are brought to them from the minister's department. The minister has shown over and over again that he has absolutely no understanding of the real world. The departmental officials who are writing these speeches ought to hang their heads in shame as well, as much as the members who are willing to stand up and read them without thought and without any personal convictions on the matter.

I have much more to say but my time is up. I urge members to support the motion. It is worthy. It is in the right direction. It may not be perfect, but if we were to wait for something to be perfect, we would never support a Liberal bill.

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank all members who participated in the debate on my private member's Motion No. 221. I appreciate their support and contributions made during the debate.

It is clear that Canada must raise the age of consent from 14 years to at least 16 years of age. Most western democracies already have an age of consent of 16 years or older. In Denmark, France and Sweden the age of consent is 15 years. In Australia, Finland, Germany, Holland, Israel, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom it is 16 years. In the American states the age of consent is 18 years.

Everyone can see that what I am proposing today is not out of the ordinary. What is out of the ordinary is our current law which allows mature adults to have sexual relations with small children. A 14-year-old cannot vote or legally drive a car, drink alcohol or even buy cigarettes. Certain public TV programs are deemed not suitable for 14-year-olds to watch, but they can have sex with an adult. It is unbelievable.

Pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, and sexual, physical and emotional abuse caused by their adult sexual partners will haunt these children for the rest of their lives. By keeping the age of consent at 14, this weak Liberal government is failing to protect our teens. Every province supports raising the age of consent, as do 80% of Canadians. It is time for the House to join them in their support.

The age of consent law is one of the laws that people really cannot believe is still on our books. In Canada people cannot have naked pictures of 14-year-olds on their computers because it is child pornography and they can be prosecuted for it, but a 50-year-old man can have sex with a 14-year-old and it is legal. That is nonsense.

On top of that, this arrogant Liberal government resists. A common concern raised throughout the debate on Motion No. 221 is that it may criminalize sexual activity among peers. For instance, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles said during the first hour of debate on May 19 that such an amendment would enable the courts to try a 16-year-old for having sexual contact of any kind with his 15-year-old girlfriend. Similar concerns were raised by the members for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Northumberland—Quinte West, and Scarborough—Rouge River.

I foresaw this concern. It is the same concern that has been raised over and over again whenever the topic of raising the age of consent has been discussed. As I said during my opening speech, however, there is an easy solution. Changes to the law can contain provisions that will protect young people from being unfairly prosecuted for adolescent romance.

We can easily establish a peer exemption for sexually active younger teens. There is already an exemption in the Criminal Code that allows 12 to 14 year olds to engage in sexual intercourse with one another as long as there is less than two years' difference in their ages. Why could a similar exemption not be written into the law for older teens? In other jurisdictions around the world this is the case. For example, in Tennessee where the age of consent is 18, there is a peer exemption for partners within four years of age of one another. Obviously, this can be done in Canada. All it takes is the political will to do so.

It is obvious that the Liberals are not willing to protect children from child predators and are hiding behind a false pretext or excuse. That is shameful. All parents of young children must remember that when they vote.

In conclusion, I wish to thank everyone for participating in this debate. I express my hope that all members will vote in favour of Motion No. 221.

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly, the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Age of ConsentPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 29, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-38, An Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders


The Speaker

There are 11 motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-38.

Before I address the issues relating to the selection and grouping of these motions for debate, I would like to mention that I have received several submissions pertaining to the admissibility of motions submitted for report stage. These motions of course are not printed on the notice paper and are returned in confidence to the author with reasons why they are procedurally inadmissible. I must state that this has been the normal practice of the House since 1994 when the Standing Orders were amended to provide that only those motions which are considered admissible by the Speaker are to be printed on the notice paper.

It is extraordinary for the Speaker to address admissibility issues in the House. Standing Order 76.1(2) states: “If the Speaker decides that an amendment is out of order, it shall be returned to the Member without having appeared on the Notice Paper.”

In this instance, the Chair will take certain liberties and explain the three basic reasons why certain report stage motions for Bill C-38 are inadmissible and have been returned to their sponsors.

First, a preamble to a bill can only be amended if it is made necessary due to an amendment to a clause of a bill, or for reasons of clarification. That is why, for example, preambles are considered at the end of clause by clause examination of the bill by the committee.

Second, an amendment to a bill cannot modify a statute or a section of a statute which is not contained in the bill. This is commonly known as the parent act rule. Its primary purpose is to keep amendments focused to the precise provision of the act which is being modified by the bill.

Third, amendments to the clauses of a bill after second reading must respect the scope of the bill, as “Amending Bills at Committee and Report Stages” states on page 5, “The scope of a bill means the schemes or ways by which the principles of the bill are achieved”. Thus, all amendments must fit within the four corners of the bill to be admissible. They cannot import matters which are not addressed in the bill. They can only refine what is already there.

Regrettably, many report stage motions address matters which are considered beyond the scope of the bill and hence are inadmissible. Many of these procedural issues also arose in committee and were ruled upon by the chair of the legislative committee, the Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole House.

The Chair understands the concerns of members but assures them that the amendments judged to be inadmissible were given close attention and that decisions were exercised based on well-established rules and precedents.

Now, I will proceed with my ruling on the selection and grouping of motions for report stage of Bill C-38.

Motion No. 6 will not be selected by the Chair as it was defeated in committee. Motions Nos. 7, 9 and 11 will not be selected by the Chair as they could have been presented in committee.

All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage. The motions will be grouped for debate as follows:

Group No. 1 will include Motions Nos. 1 to 3, 8 and 10. Group No. 2 will include Motions Nos. 4 and 5.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the Table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 3, 8 and 10 in Group No. 1 to the House.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB


Motion No. 1

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK


Motion No. 8

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 15.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

On Motion No. 3, the mover is not here so we are unable to proceed with that motion.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to move Motion No. 3 in lieu of the member for Scarborough Southwest.