Debates of May 3rd, 2007
House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-22.
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Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC
Mr. Speaker, in response to a question asked by the hon. member for Oshawa, the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie asked him whether he had voted for or against the bill intended to better protect our children from violence on television. A simple look at Hansard reveals that, in the end, he voted against the bill.
I would therefore like to hear the reaction of the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. Can one really claim to want to protect children and, at the same time, vote against a bill that aims to reduce violence in television broadcasts?
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague used the questions and comments period as an opportunity to verify if the hon. member for Oshawa voted for or against the private member's bill to reduce television violence, particularly during peak viewing hours for children. The member voted against that bill. There are two different approaches. The first involves increasing penalties by imposing minimum sentences, for example. However, that approach overlooks the fact that prevention is an important factor in reducing the violence and abuse inflicted on the most vulnerable members of our society.
I think we must work on prevention. The media that broadcast these messages and need to be better regulated should in fact be regulated. The example just given by my colleague illustrates the difference between our approach on this side of the House and the approach proposed by the government opposite.
Yes, we are in favour of Bill C-22, but we believe that education, awareness and preventive measures are effective tools we can use to reduce violence in our society. In that regard, we are in favour of Bill C-22, although it is certainly not enough to prevent the unacceptable exploitation of our young people, our children, our most vulnerable members of society.
The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, firearms registry.
Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.
Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak today in support of Canada's new government's decision to raise the age of sexual protection from 14 to 16 years old. This, in my view, is a step toward the kind of civility in our criminal justice system that Canadians expect.
For me and for my constituents this decision was quite easy. In fact, it is difficult for many to understand why it took so long for government to take this very basic and obvious decision.
It is the view of my constituents, and I share it, that children as young as 14 ought to be protected from adults who wish to engage with them in sexual relations. We do not believe, in my constituency, that adults should be permitted to have sexual relations with children as young as 14 years old, which is why I joined with the Conservative caucus for many years in fighting for that age to be raised.
I am proud to see that Canada's new government, under the leadership of our Conservative Prime Minister, has kept its word to raise the age of sexual protection from 14 to 16. In fact, I am proud that we acted swiftly to raise the sexual protection after years of delay by the previous Liberal government.
I think today of our broader criminal justice agenda, which seeks to restore accountability for criminals and protection for victims.
Just yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you had an excellent private member's bill to bring in mandatory jail time for those who steal cars repetitively and are convicted of doing so. How timely it was to have such a private member's bill because just yesterday police in the Montreal area discovered a massive junkyard containing as many as 100 stolen cars. I predict that when this crime is unravelled we will find that most of those cars were stolen by repeat offenders.
Mr. Speaker, had your tough justice law been in place at the time, many of those repeat offenders would have been behind bars, unable to carry out their systematic theft of private property. Unfortunately, the previous government did not support tough laws to combat criminality.
We were elected on an agenda to fix the flaws of the previous government's justice policy. We put forward over a dozen tough on crime bills but none of them received swift support from the opposition and many of them continue to languish before a committee. However, I am heartened to see that Conservatives on that committee work hard every day to see those bills pass as soon as possible.
Some of those bills include: mandatory jail time for criminals who commit offences with firearms; a three strikes and you are out, which means that if someone commits three violent or sexual offences they will be put away for life unless they can prove they are no longer a danger to society; and the onus would now be on the criminal instead of on the innocent victim to prove that he has reformed and is able to go out into society.
We have put forward a reverse onus bill that says that if someone is charged with committing a gun crime they cannot go back out on the street with cheap bail but, rather, they, because of the danger they bring to society, will be kept behind bars until they are acquitted.
Those are the kinds of steps that my constituents support. Conservatives have always stood for these things. Other parties have joined in supporting such policies at election time but when the votes are cast and the cameras are off, things seem to change. It is important for the spotlight to be shone on the other parties so that Canadians from coast to coast can understand their record on crime and know what they are voting for in the next election.
It is not right for people in places like Mississauga to vote for someone who they think will be tough on crime, because that is what the person promised on the doorstep, only to find out later that the person had been working for exactly the opposite ends.
I am proud to rise in this place and remain consistent with the promises I made to my constituents to toughen the justice system and to put away the most violent, egregious criminals, in particular those who consistently and habitually reoffend.
The Prime Minister has led the charge in building tough on crime legislation that will restore accountability in our criminal justice system. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you support these initiatives. I know you are a leading fighter in the cause of restoring public safety in your community. You have been fighting hard to advance the cause of a private member's bill that would mean that people would no longer have to face having repeat offenders steal their cars. Your bill would take those offenders right off the street so they could not reoffend.
The cost of crime in all of its forms is enormous in both social and financial terms. For example, the cost of repeat offenders stealing cars off the street raises insurance premiums by as much as $70 per person in this country and yet some do not believe we ought to put people who habitually steal cars behind bars. Some believe those criminals should serve their sentences in the comfort of their living rooms in what is called house arrest.
I submit that if people are willing to steal cars repeatedly they are probably not willing to honour an edict to stay home, especially when all they need to do is open their front door to carry out the next theft. I support your bill, Mr. Speaker, to put mandatory jail time in place for people who steal cars.
I support the three strikes and you are out legislation to put behind bars forever dangerous offenders who have committed three violent or sexual offences. It is up to people in the House of Commons to explain why they do not support those measures. In fact, I would encourage them to put a survey in their householder or in their ten percenters to find out how their constituents feel. I do not think there is a single member of the House of Commons who, if he or she were to conduct an objective survey in his or her constituency, would find that people oppose getting tough on crime.
I challenge the members of the House, as an experiment, to put a survey in their householders or hire a survey company to do it for them, on the question of whether their constituents support the three strikes and you are out legislation that would put violent and sexual offenders behind bars forever if they commit three offences. I would be willing to wager that there is not one MP who would find his or her constituents oppose that sort of legislation. However, we find that the opposition parties are leading the charge against those kinds of measures.
We have a difference in values on the question of criminal justice in the House of Commons. We in the Conservative Party and this government believe in real consequences for hardened criminals. Others believe in a softer approach, which allows criminals back out on the street in the hope they might reform themselves.
The police, victims groups and the vast majority of Canadians have issued their verdict on this debate over values and overwhelmingly agree with our government in its efforts to crack down on crime.
At some point in 2009, there will be an election and I predict that members of all parties will have a moment of judgment with their constituents on the issue of crime. In the next election, when they go before their electors in communities across this country, communities like Mississauga, and explain why they spent years blocking government efforts to get tough on crime, I expect there will be many angry and betrayed voters who will demand some clear explanations for that decision. In our democracy, the voter will have the right to act accordingly.
On the question of raising the age of sexual protection, our government has moved with as much rapidity as humanly possible to raise the age of sexual protection from 14 to 16. Our government believes, and we are now putting into law, in the principle that 14 year olds ought to be protected from older adult sexual predators.
For the last 13 years, our party, the Conservative Party, fought hard to raise the age of sexual protection. It came up against great resistance from others who were then in the government, but we fought on. Canadians have now given us the mantle of government and we followed through with our commitment to raise the age of sexual protection from 14 to 16.
I know that the decent people of Nepean—Carleton agree with our government's decision to raise the age of sexual protection from 14 to 16. They believe it will make our children safer and, frankly, they do not understand why the previous government refused to take these very same steps.
Today we are debating the passage of this legislation. Once it is passed through the House of Commons it faces another hurdle: the Senate. It is time for us to turn our attention to that question. What will the Senate do when it receives the legislation? Will the Senate execute the will of the Canadian people and pass into law a measure to protect our teenage children from adult predators, or will the Liberal Senate continue to delay our efforts to protect young people from adult predators? I hope not. I hope that for a change the Liberal Senate will recognize that Canadians are demanding that the age of sexual protection be raised from 14 to 16. It was promised by the government in the last election and we have delivered. Now we are calling on the unelected Liberal Senate to follow through with the will of the Canadian people and protect our children against adult predators.
There is no reason why the Senate cannot simply pass the legislation early next week, send it back with no amendments and allow it to be passed into law. There is nothing really to debate here. We are talking about protecting teenage children from adult sexual predators. How can the Senate claim, as it might, that it needs months and months to debate, study and amend such a simple proposition?
I am hoping that the Liberal Senate will recognize the will of the people to raise the age of sexual protection, will send the bill back without any changes and will help us codify the bill into law in the next week. There is no reason why they cannot and should not and I hope there is no reason why they would not.
I am honoured to represent the constituents of Nepean—Carleton. I celebrate any occasion when I can bring to fruition a promise that I made to them in the last election. Beyond the positive attributes of the bill, the fact that it protects our children, we can also celebrate a promise made and a promise kept. We said that we would do it, that we could do it and we have done it. It is now time for the Senate to pass the bill and move forward in protecting our youngest and most vulnerable.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for presiding over this debate and for helping us to carry forward in the completion of yet another promise made and kept. I thank you for this occasion to speak before this House. I now anticipate the questions and queries of my distinguished colleagues.
Peter MacKay Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting the debate. I was enthralled with the comments of my colleague from Nepean—Carleton and compliment him on his remarks.
Pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I am tabling consent to table copies of a document entitled “Arrangement for the Transfer of Detainees Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”. I am tabling this in both official languages.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (age of protection) and to make consequential amendments to the Criminal Records Act, be read the third time and passed.
Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB
Mr. Speaker, I recognized in his speech that my colleague has taken on a real mission here in order to support this bill and what it represents. I would like to say that he is not alone. There are very many of us who have had a number of calls from our constituents and indeed letters from people right across this country who want to see the law strengthened in this particular instance.
Today during this debate a number of members of other parties have been taking what I think are very cheap shots at the intent of this legislation. They have been very vocal in some of their expressions of doubt about whether or not it is a good bill, whether or not it is going to accomplish what it says, and also that it threatens certain of the freedoms they want to have.
I would like my colleague, if he would, please, to just comment on whether or not in his view this is a bill that is worth supporting and what his main reasons would be for that support.
Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON
Mr. Speaker, I note that the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park has been working for over a decade to raise the age of sexual protection, because it has been one of his main objectives to defend the most vulnerable in our society. He has fought for tougher laws in our justice system to protect the innocent against the guilty. He has fought to raise the age of sexual protection from 14 to 16 in order to protect teenagers against adult predators.
I am proud that our Conservative government has kept its promise to raise the age of protection from 14 to 16 and to protect our most vulnerable from adult predators. That is the right thing to do. I am proud to have been part of a government that has done this. I am proud to be part of a Conservative Party that keeps its promises.
Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC
Mr. Speaker, I reviewed Hansard, our proceedings and our votes and I was a bit saddened to see that last week, the member for Nepean—Carleton voted against the bill aimed at regulating violence on television.
I wondered how one could claim to want to defend and protect children but nonetheless accept that there is so much violence on television. Furthermore that violence is shown during prime time, when many very young children whose behaviour and personality are developing can watch this kind of program, which goes unregulated by the CRTC. I find it rather paradoxical.
We notice that Conservatives—and that is also true for the member—spend much energy representing themselves as a tough on crime government. They are tough on crime once it has been committed instead of preventing it. I would invite the member to do a survey in his riding and to ask his voters if they think that it is better to punish criminals or to prevent crimes.
For this Conservative government, prevention is a wasteland. We know that it continues to oppose maintaining the full gun registry. The majority of Conservative members voted against the bill to reduce violence on television. We know that there are countless crime prevention programs. Community groups and groups working in our ridings are waiting for the grants blocked by the federal government. These programs have already been approved by joint federal-provincial committees. They only require the signature of the Minister of Public Safety; the programs are still not in place.
In the end, they are being hypocritical and doing nothing. They block initiatives to prevent crime and then say that they will pass legislation so that individuals spend more time in prison.
It changes nothing for victims of crime if their attackers or those who commit these crimes spend more time in jail. This does not remove the pain of what they had to endure and it does not make amends for the crime.
In my opinion, the Conservatives are guilty of gross hypocrisy. The member who voted against the bill of my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has a double standard in this matter.
Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON
Mr. Speaker, first of all, there are already many regulations governing violence on television. We already have regulations. We do not need the Bloc, which has not accomplished anything in its 13 years here in Parliament, to change that.
Secondly, this criticism comes from a party that voted against minimum sentences for violent offenders who use firearms to commit crimes against innocent victims. This party has voted against every measure to strengthen our justice system.
That is why I refuse to accept any advice from that party. Its statements are extreme and its ideas are not in line with the values of Quebeckers and Canadians.
That party, the Bloc, along with the Liberals, voted in committee to allow arsonists, car thieves and burglars to do their sentences in the comfort of their homes. Instead of doing those sentences behind bars through mandatory jail time, that party, the Bloc, along with the Liberals, voted in committee that we should allow those people to have house arrest.
I would be willing to bet that the grand majority of that member's constituents would tell him that they do not want car thieves, arsonists and burglars living in their neighbourhood doing house arrest. They would rather have mandatory jail time for them.
That is what our party has stood for. That is what our government stands for. It is what the vast majority of people in this country believe, including those in Quebec. Quite frankly, in the next election campaign, that member is going to have to explain his out of touch views to his constituents when they learn of his record and his party's soft on crime record.
The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau
The hon. member for Chatham-Kent--Essex should know that there are two minutes left, so perhaps we can have half that time for the question and half for the answer.
Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will make this quite short. We have all been watching this with quite some interest. I have listened to the member's speech. We share the concern, as he does, that we really have to adjust our attitudes.
I recall an incident not that long ago when we were discussing the punishment of crime. I would like the member to comment on some of the remarks that I heard. There was a reference to prison as repression. I heard that reference a number of times from the Bloc.
Would the member care to comment on that? Is there something I am missing here? Have we turned a page in history?
Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON
Mr. Speaker, one problem with the Bloc Québécois is that it will never be able to do anything. That much is obvious and everyone knows it. The party also has a far left ideology that does not reflect Quebeckers' ideas. When it comes to crime, the Bloc does not support simple measures that the vast majority of Quebeckers and Canadians support. Those are the two problems with the Bloc.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am very much in favour of this bill and I know that members throughout the House have voted and spoken in favour of it. I am going to limit my comments rather than speak out the clock. I am going to make a few comments and then I will be sitting down. If the members would like to have the bill today, so that we could have this piece of legislation, they will not talk the clock out with questions, but simply put the question. I offer that to the House as an opportunity for the bill to be called for the vote before we reach the time for private members' business.
I do not have to go into much detail on this bill. Bill C-22 would raise the age of consent for sexual activity from 14 to 16. This is non-exploitive sexual activity I am talking about and it would also create the exception in respect to an accused who engages in sexual activity with a 14 or 15 year old youth and who is less than five years older than the youth, referred to as the close in age exemption.
It is to correct situations like we had in the last Parliament where legislation similar to this from private members did not include this provision. It meant that a person 17 years of age having sexual activity with someone 15 years of age would in fact be in violation of the law and subject to Criminal Code sanctions of up to 10 years imprisonment. That was never the intent of the legislation and I believe that the correction to this has now been made.
It also has a couple of other minor exceptions which many members have already outlined to the House and to the public, so I will not repeat them.
I do however want to make a couple of comments with regard to, as the prior speaker spoke extensively about, 11 or so crime bills. As a member of Parliament who tries to keep close to what the constituents are saying and to keep informed about the public at large, I am not sure whether I agree with 11 or 12 bills which are solely targeted at getting tough on crime with absolutely no evidence whatsoever of crime reduction and crime prevention.
I raise that because an effective criminal justice system has to provide for prevention, deterrence and rehabilitation. Just recently the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse issued a very striking report which indicated that 42% of all criminal activity involves the use of alcohol and an additional 8% involves the use of drugs. So we have situations where people who may have addictions are also falling into the criminal activity area.
That is why we need judicial independence. That is why we need judicial discretion. Each case is not the same. Each offence is not the same. Maybe the charge is the same, but the circumstances surrounding it are not the same. That is what I do not see there.
The member who just spoke also laid out that there were somehow some delays, but when I saw the article in the National Post which commented on this, it was described as a series of one-off bills. If we consult the speech from the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, he laid out in a very eloquent speech that there were a series of small bills, all of which were amending the Criminal Code.
Traditionally in the House, when we are doing a cleanup of the Criminal Code, there would be an omnibus bill. It would have accelerated the process very substantially, but the government chose to milk every opportunity. In fact, this bill, which everyone is supporting, was not introduced in this Parliament until June 22, just before the House rose for a three month break. It does not make much sense.
Then, because there were so many other bills at the justice committee, the committee could not even get around to it until March 21 when it had its first meeting. However, the members worked on it right through until April 19 and it was reported back to this place on April 23.
There is no delay. The fact is that if we want to make the appearance of doing lots of things we could take Criminal Code amendments, break them down into their smallest pieces and announce, “Look at all the legislation”. That does not help because all it does is bog down the criminal justice system by having the justice committee have so much work that it could not possibly deal with so many individual pieces of legislation.
I want to suggest that we have worked very diligently. In fact, the opposition has been calling for more police officers on the street, greater crime fighting collaboration among all levels of government and law enforcement agencies, the modernization of investigative techniques, more Crown attorneys, and a full complement of properly appointed judges. I have some honest fear that the government is not of the same view. Judicial independence is not a value of the Conservative government.
We are also trying to help to ensure the best possible job of catching and convicting criminals. Prevention is an integral part of the criminal justice system and the approach to dealing with crime. Members will know because the jurist statistics are there, that the criminal sanctions, the penalties in the United States, are more onerous, more severe than they are in Canada and yet, the crime rate in the United States is three times higher than it is in Canada. We have to look at those things.
I would also point out that there are other certain circumstances, for example, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. We know that a very significant majority of crimes are committed by people who suffer from alcohol related birth defects. They are in the jails of Canada. Rehabilitation is not applicable. Why have we not dealt with that? These statistics would be clarified if we understood and dealt with mental illness, and treated it properly under the criminal justice system as well as dealing with appropriate crime prevention techniques.
There are about seven minutes left if members have burning questions. I support the bill. The Liberal Party supports the bill because it specifically includes the close in age exemption. That was the stopper in the last Parliament. We have the opportunity to call the vote on the bill now if the members really want the bill. Let us do it.
Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is calling for the vote, but I think some of us still have some questions as to some of the statements that were made and more particularly the fact that jail times do not result in a slowdown on crime.
I would like to express some of my own experience. I have two sons who are police officers. They often tell me about their frustration. There is a term to which they refer to: “catch and release”. They say they are doing their jobs as policemen, they are catching the guys who are repeating time and again. The result is that they are back on the streets.
I am a little confused when the hon. member begins to question whether or not we are going in the right direction when we as a government, incidentally I think it is also fair to say that it is also the direction of the public, say that we are fed up with this. There has to be a consequence for actions that are taken.
We can use statistics and studies, and I am sure there are studies on both sides, but the fact remains that we have habitual criminals, individuals who insist on breaking the law time and again. We are not talking about the young person who makes a mistake and gets into trouble. We are talking about people who have violently offended. We are talking about people who have stolen cars not once or twice but over and over again.
We are talking about people who have no regard for the law and no regard for our police officers. After repeatedly being arrested and repeatedly standing before the judge, at what point do we then say they have to pay for what they have done, there is a penalty for their actions. At what point would the hon. member say that we now have to take some action?