Mr. Speaker, first, I congratulate you formally on getting second reading on your Bill C-343, to amend the Criminal Code, motor vehicle theft. I was very proud to support that.
I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-22 today. The bill amends the Criminal Code to raise the age from 14 to 16 at which a person can consent to non-exploitive sexual activity. This applies to sexual activity involving prostitution, pornography or where there is a relationship of trust, authority, dependency or any other situation that is otherwise exploitive to another person.
Bill C-22 will better protect our youth against sexual exploitation by adult predators and I believe it strikes an appropriate balance that will not target consenting teenagers.
The age of consent of 14 has been around since the Canadian Criminal Code was consolidated in 1892, and the change proposed in the bill is long overdue. Most of the U.S. states, by and large, have 16 as the age of consent, as do most of the states of Australia as well as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Belgium, Finland and many other countries.
BillC-22 was tabled on June 22, 2006, and we are fast approaching the one year anniversary of the government bringing forward the legislation. The Conservative government knows that a majority of MPs in the House of Commons want to pass the bill, the government's bill, and yet we are debating a bill that could have been passed months ago.
I have been incredibly disappointed with the Conservative government's constant delay of legislation that it has put forward.
The Liberal opposition has tried three times in the last six months to expedite a number of government bills dealing with justice issues and each time the Conservative Party has shown that it is more interested in gaining partisan advantage than in actually passing its own legislation.
The Liberal opposition even tried to table a motion that proposed the immediate passing of seven of the nine bills that the government brought forward. All of this legislation could have been in the Senate long ago and some even passed into law, effectively disposing of more than half of the government's entire justice agenda.
Unfortunately, the Conservative House leader raised a point of order to block the Liberal motion and caused further delays in passing serious anti-crime legislation. The citizens of Canada are seeing for themselves how hollow Conservative words ring when it actually comes to implementing a serious crime agenda.
This is not the only legislative game the Conservative government is playing. It refuses to bring Bill C-30 to the House. It is delaying private members' business dealing with climate change in the Senate. It has delayed seven different justice related bills in the past few months. It is absolutely incredible.
Over that period of time in my own riding of Newton—North Delta, the city of Surrey has brought forward its own crime reduction plan, which I spoke to earlier this week. The Liberal opposition has brought forward a plan to hire 400 new RCMP officers and fast track justice legislation on which we all agree. Instead, we have seen dithering, delay and broken promises. The biggest being the Conservative government's promise to hire 2,500 new police officers, which it did not get it done. The mayor of Vancouver brought forward more money for new police officers this year than Canada's government for the entire country.
It is time for the Conservative government to stop playing politics with the issue of crime reduction and prevention. People expect better and rhetoric will not cover for the fact that this bill should have been passed months ago.
Passing Bill C-22 will give police more tools to stop predators that our officers see on the street every day. It will bring us in line with the majority of western democracies and most importantly, it will give us an even greater capacity to protect our children.
According to Detective Janet Hall of the Toronto Police child exploitative section, this bill will change for the better the way police investigate child pornography, underage prostitution and Internet luring. In effect, more kids will be protected and more predators will go to jail where they belong.
A senior member of the RCMP child exploitative unit has praised steps to raise the age of consent as another step toward protecting our children on line.
I am also on the access to information committee and I have heard the witnesses coming there. The Salvation Army has written that those between the ages of 13 to 15, who are most vulnerable to being manipulated into a sexual relationship, will be more protected and it will end any charge that Canada is in fact a destination for sex tourism and sexual trafficking.
Tamara Lampton from my riding of Newton—North Delta wrote to me and said: “It's not about what party is right or wrong; it's about protecting the most vulnerable in our great nation”.
Kathy Ford wrote to me and said: “I'm praying you will cast your yes vote on this bill and protect our children, who are our most valuable resource”.
Laurie Leiggett wrote to me and said: “I believe Canada must step up to the plate and be a leader in protecting children from sexual exploitation, not a haven for pedophiles”.
What does that say? This is exactly what I was saying earlier, that the Conservative government could have acted months ago to protect these children who have been exploited within that timeframe.
I realize that many members on the other side of the House agree with this legislation, but there is a big difference between moving the legislation and actually passing the legislation. The Conservative government will have to do a lot of explaining to those Canadians who are appalled at the partisan Conservative delay tactics that have stalled Bill C-22.
As a father of three young children and as an elected member of Parliament who has consistently reflected my community's desire that we be tougher on crime and work toward crime reduction and prevention strategy, I implore the Conservative government to stop playing politics with the Criminal Code and allow this legislation to pass as soon as possible.