This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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.

Topics

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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative 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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative 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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc 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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative 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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative 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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative 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?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative 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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal 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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative 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?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the official opposition offered to pass all of the justice bills in quick fashion, but the government turned it down, so I am sorry. If the member would like to know a little more about that, I would refer him to the reviews in the justice committee where the experts were. If the government would like to have Bill C-22 voted on, now is the time to do it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to this bill which I had the pleasure of developing and working on when I was minister of justice. There are a few comments that I would like to make in the course of addressing the bill.

I noted that the NDP member for Burnaby—Douglas talked about the fact that the laws in this country were already quite tough in that respect. That, of course, is not borne out by the facts at all.

I would point out, for example, the provision relating to the trust relationship dealing with children between the ages of 14 and 18. I know that was an argument that the previous Liberal government had advanced, saying that we could always rely on this. If there is an exploitation in the context of a trust relationship, the Crown can bring a charge.

What that particular section does not do is actually protect the child on the stand. The whole weight of the prosecution rests on the child to demonstrate that there was a trust relationship and that trust had been breached. Crown attorneys, police officers, and others who work with children in this context have indicated time and time again that the law was not effective. It simply does not hold those predators to account because, quite simply put, the children are the ones who are then put on trial.

The age of protection law that we are bringing in here removes that kind of onus on the child and puts it squarely on the shoulders of where it should belong and that is on the shoulders of the predator. Quite clearly, a child between the age of 14 and 16 does not have to justify that this was a trust relationship that was somehow exploited. The comments by the member were quite inaccurate.

The member for Burnaby—Douglas and the Liberal member for Vancouver Centre talked about section--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. President of the Treasury Board. When we return to the study of Bill C-22, there will be 17 minutes left to the hon. President of the Treasury Board.

It being 5:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system) as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Speakers' RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-269.

Motion No. 1 will not be chosen by the Chair because it could have been introduced at committee stage.

Since there is no report stage motion, the House will now proceed without debate to the vote on concurrence motion at report stage.

Speakers' RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.

Speakers' RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion for concurrence. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Speakers' RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Speakers' RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

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

Speakers' RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Speakers' RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Speakers' RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Speakers' RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Pursuant to Standing Order 98, a recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 9, 2007, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, on April 18 during question period, I asked the Minister of Public Safety a question concerning whether or not the minister would bring forth the government's own legislation, which would abolish the firearms registry, for debate at second reading in this House and whether he would have a vote on the firearms registry. I asked him if he did in fact bring it forth if he would respect the will of Parliament once and for all.

The Minister of Public Safety simply went around the question. He did not answer it. He talked about how he has met with the president of the Canadian Police Association and that we are getting there and we are going to begin the process of seeing 2,500 more municipal officers right around the country.

There are two things here. First, the Conservatives' commitment during the last election in 2006 that they would engage and allow provinces to hire 2,500 more municipal police officers has been a big fat zero. It is a promise that this government has not kept. It has not budgeted money in its 2006 budget, nor in its 2007 budget, in order to provide extra resources to the provincial and territorial governments so that they might have money to hire more police officers at the municipal level.

Second, and even more important, this is a government that has been trying to make political hay and headlines by saying that the opposition is stalling its justice and law and order agenda. This is a government that brought in legislation last June to abolish the firearms registry, to virtually gut the firearms registry, and this government has not had the courage to move a motion to have that bill debated at second reading. It is almost a year to the day since the Conservatives tabled that legislation. Why have they not brought a motion to have this House debate their bill that would gut the firearms registry, to have it debated in this House and voted on?

If he wants to talk about Tony Cannavino, the president of the Canadian Professional Police Association, let me read for members the association's firearms registry motion: “The Canadian Professional Police Association (CPPA) supports a firearms registry system that provides accurate information on all firearms”, not just handguns, but long guns as well, “and is accessible to police officers in a timely manner to improve the safety of all police officers and community members in Canada”.

That is interesting. The Canadian Professional Police Association has recommended to this government not just to maintain the firearms registry but to ensure that all firearms are in fact registered. That is in direct opposition to what this government has attempted to do with its legislation.

However, this government will not put its pants on and put its courage behind its political decision. If the Conservatives are so certain of their political position on the firearms registry, I ask the Minister of Public Safety, as I asked him on April 18, to move a motion for second reading debate of the Conservatives' bill on the firearms registry. Let us have the debate in the House. Let us have the vote in the House. Let them abide by the results of the vote.