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.