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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

Air TransportOral Questions

3 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this indeed is a good news question. As the member just stated, Tuesday was a great day for Hamilton, where they are starting to get the benefit and the experience from our blue sky policy.

As part of it we negotiated an open skies agreement with the United Kingdom last spring. A year later we witnessed new non-stop flights to the United Kingdom from Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, St. John's and Deer Lake.

The business trip to London and the family reunion in Scotland will be cheaper, easier and within the reach of more Canadians than ever before.

Government BuildingsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the recommendation of companies belonging to the Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank groups, the government is getting ready to sell nine buildings in its inventory.

This would be unremarkable if the two companies proposing the sale were not also going to get a commission on the sale. The whole thing smacks of conflict of interest.

How can the government claim to be protecting taxpayers' interests when the two banks have a vested interest in suggesting that these buildings be sold so that they can get a commission for brokering the deal?

Government BuildingsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, this process is in the best interests of taxpayers and all Canadians.

We will continue to do what we promised to do during the election campaign: respect taxpayers' money. There is no conflict, contrary to what my friend just said. What we are doing here is in the best interests of taxpayers. We are going to carry on with our plan as we said we would.

TaxationOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, northern households spend $15,000 more per year on essentials than other Canadians. Northerners need relief from the high cost of living. Let us make their taxes fair by increasing the northern residents tax deduction.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce says to make the taxes fair. The Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories voted unanimously to make the tax fair.

When the Minister of Finance increased the capital gains he said it was needed as it had not been changed in almost 20 years. It has been 20 years since the working families in the north got some tax fairness. When will the minister bring tax fairness to the north?

TaxationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, this is a subject which I have certainly spoken about with the premier of the territories.

At this point we are focused on economic development in the north. That is the key to create jobs and employment opportunities. There is the Mackenzie Valley pipeline in particular and the $500 million socio-economic fund.

This is a government that is committed to the north. The Minister of Finance has been very committed to economic development and prosperity in the north.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Dr. Jaime José Matos da Gama, the President of the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It being Thursday, I believe the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie has a question.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, could the leader of the government advise the House of the agenda he intends to follow for the rest of this week and through next week?

Could he also confirm to all members of this House that he will give high priority to Bill C-30, Canada's Clean Air Act?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, today and tomorrow we will continue our focus on making our streets and communities safer by cracking down on crime.

This morning we completed the debate at report stage on Bill C-10. That is a bill to introduce mandatory penalties for gun related crimes and other violent acts. Our government proposed amendments at report stage to restore what the Liberals had gutted from the bill at committee, mainly those aspects that will ensure violent criminals actually serve time in jail. We will be voting on these amendments next week.

We will continue this afternoon with Bill C-22, which is the age of protection legislation, followed by Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders legislation that would require criminals who are convicted on two separate occasions of a violent crime to prove to the court why they are not a danger to the community.

Next week will be strengthening accountability through democratic reform week. It effectively kicked off today when Bill C-16, the fixed dates for elections act, received royal assent.

On Monday we will resume debate on Bill C-43. That is the bill that proposes to give Canadians a say in who they want representing them in the Senate.

Our government will be introducing a number of new measures in the House of Commons next week, which I will address at the appropriate time.

Of course, we still have Bill S-4, the bill to establish Senate term limits, which has been languishing in the Senate for almost a year now. It would be nice if the Senate passed that. It would be nice if the Liberal senators could get on with it, so that we could actually have that bill here in the House of Commons as part of our focus on democratic reform next week.

Tuesday, May 8 and Thursday, May 10 will be allotted days.

Pursuant to Standing Order 66 I would like to conclude debate tomorrow on the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I would like to conclude debate on May 11, 2007 on the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Subject to an agreement with other parties, there may be interest in concluding debate at second reading of Bill C-33, the income tax bill, as early as tomorrow.

On the question of Bill C-30, we see elements of that legislation that we brought forward that are very valuable relating to biodiesel, alternative fuels and so on, and we will seek ways of introducing that in the House of Commons. However, we have absolutely no intention of bringing forward the Liberal carbon tax plan, which is now at the fore of that bill, which would establish an unlimited right to pollute for polluters. All they would have to do is pay and they would have an unlimited right to pollute. That is not our approach. We are bringing in regulations to achieve real reductions in greenhouse gases. That is our approach.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

That concludes the Thursday question, but I believe the hon. the government House leader has submissions he wishes to make to the Chair on a question of privilege. If that is the case, I would be pleased to hear him on that subject now.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel on May 1, 2007.

The hon. member accused Merlin Preuss, a government official with Transport Canada, of intimidating witnesses who were to appear before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. This is a very serious allegation, because intimidating witnesses is clearly unacceptable.

However, I maintain that the question of privilege raised by the hon. member is invalid for two reasons. First, there is no proof that the situation described by the hon. member constitutes a prima facie breach of parliamentary privilege. This is a question of the interpretation of facts.

Second, this matter concerns the standing committee's work. Since the committee has not presented its report on the matter, it cannot be examined by the House as a valid question of privilege.

I would first like to present the facts of the situation. Mr. Holbrook, chair of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association, appeared before the committee on February 21.

The hon. member referred to an affidavit by an assistant to Mr. Holbrook. In this affidavit, she indicated that Mr. Preuss had mentioned to her before the meeting of the committee that, if Mr. Holbrook planned to have any Transport Canada inspectors with him, he would “have an issue with it”, the insinuation being that this shows that Mr. Preuss' intention was to intimidate a witness. This allegation was examined by the standing committee at its March 28 meeting. At that time, Mr. Preuss stated that it never was his intention to intimidate or influence potential witnesses. He said, and I quote:

My sole purpose in making the call was to find out whether Mr. Holbrook intended to have civil aviation inspectors appearing with him, so that I might ensure that everyone involved knew of their roles, rights, and responsibilities.

At no time during this brief phone conversation with Mr. Holbrook's assistant did I make any threats regarding the appearance of inspectors before this committee.

There is therefore no evidence to suggest that witnesses have been intimidated. I understand that, during the April 23 meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the chair actually made remarks to that effect, saying that there was no evidence to support these allegations.

At best, we are dealing with diverging interpretations of the facts with respect to the conversation Mr. Preuss had with Mr. Holbrook's assistant. I submit that there are no grounds to conclude that a prima facie breach of parliamentary privilege had occurred.

From a procedural point of view, I also submit that there can be no prima facie case of privilege at this time, given that the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has not submitted a report to the House on this matter.

As the House of Commons Procedure and Practice by Marleau and Montpetit indicates on page 128:

Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will only hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings upon presentation of a report from the committee which directly deals with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual Member.

Since the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has not tabled a report on the matter, I submit that this is not a valid question of privilege at this time.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his comments and observations on the matter. I will take them under advisement and I will give my decision to the House in due time.

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Selkirk--Interlake and we will hear him now.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg South CentrePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I gave notice of my intention to rise on a question of privilege relating to threatening comments made to me on the floor of the House of Commons by the member for Winnipeg South Centre. This occurred just prior to the votes taken last night.

I was in my chair when the member for Winnipeg South Centre approached me in regard to some ten percenters that we had sent into her riding. She said that she was would be taking legal action against the Manitoba Conservative caucus and then went on to say, “You'd better stop doing this or I have a photo and a story which will blow the lid off your caucus”. I really feel that she was trying to intimidate me.

As you well know, Mr. Speaker, evidence of intimidation or threats against members constitute a prima facie question of privilege. This incident was witnessed by the hon. members for Avalon, Palliser, Niagara West—Glanbrook and others who are prepared to support my complaint.

Mr. Speaker, you will be aware of the numerous threatening incidences outlined in Marleau and Montpetit beginning at page 86 that have been considered prima facie evidence of contempts. Should you find that a prima facie case exists, I am prepared to move the necessary motion to refer this matter to committee.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg South CentrePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Selkirk--Interlake for his submission. Given the presence or absence of members in the House at the moment, I think it probably prudent that the Chair take this under advisement in case there are other submissions on the matter before a decision could be made. Accordingly, I will take the matter under advisement.

The hon. member for Palliser is also rising on this point and I will hear him now.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg South CentrePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to validate the comments of my colleague from Selkirk--Interlake. I was in my seat and witnessed this exchange exactly as he described it for the record, as was my colleague from Avalon and the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg South CentrePrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Palliser for his assistance.

I believe the hon. the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader has a point of order he wishes to raise.

Bill C-280--Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

May 3rd, 2007 / 3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my point of order I must say that while I recognize I am raising this point of order today, I also recognize the fact that a ruling by yourself will not be made before third reading debate takes place on Bill C-280.

It is on Bill C-280 that I rise today. Without commenting on the merits of the private member's bill, I would appreciate your consideration, Mr. Speaker, on whether Bill C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, requires a royal recommendation under Standing Order 79.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was adopted as Bill C-11 by the 37th Parliament and received royal assent on November 1, 2001. Bill C-11, which was accompanied by a royal recommendation, specified in clause 275 that:

The provisions of this Act come into force on a day or days to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

Bill C-280 seeks to amend section 275 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to stipulate that, despite the coming into force provisions adopted in 2001, sections 110, 111 and 171 would come into force on the day Bill C-280 receives royal assent.

The substantive effect would be to establish a refugee appeal division at the Immigration and Refugee Board. This would involve significant new expenditures to cover the appointment of adjudicators to hear appeals; the administrative officers to establish, receive and process applications for appeal; office space to conduct appeal hearings; and other activities required for the operation of a new appeals division.

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration estimates that the initial start-up cost would be at least $8 million and ongoing annual costs would be over $12 million. This does not include the considerable costs associated with the provision of legal aid.

Those estimated costs also do not take into consideration the potential significant costs of implementation should the bill fail to include transition provisions, without which, could potentially lead to an immediate backlog of approximately 40,000 additional cases.

Of course, the creation of a refugee division was contemplated by the original legislation. However, this was accompanied by a qualification in clause 275, that the timing of its creation would be subject to a future decision of the governor in council, namely, when to bring in sections 110, 111 and 171 into force.

The procedural authorities and precedents indicate that the royal recommendation, which accompanies a bill, fixes not only the amount of an expenditure but also the way in which it will be incurred.

Beauchesne's 6th edition, page 183, citation 596, indicates:

...the communication, to which the Royal Recommendation is attached, must be treated as laying down once for all...not only the amount of the charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. In relation to the standard thereby fixed, an amendment infringes the financial initiative of the Crown not only if it increases the amount but also if it extends the objects and purposes, or relaxes the conditions and qualifications expressed in the communication by which the Crown has demanded or recommended a charge.

On March 26, 1985, on page 3353 of Hansard, the Speaker cited this section of Beauchesne's in ruling an amendment to a government bill out of order because, by eliminating a legislated deadline, it would relax a condition of the royal recommendation.

On October 17, 1986, at page 473 of Hansard, the Speaker ruled that an amendment to an income tax bill was beyond the scope of a royal recommendation, even though it did not change the overall expenditure, because “It changes the intent of the Bill”.

The intent of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, as clearly expressed in clause 275, was that the governor in council would determine at what time clauses 110, 111 and 171 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act would be brought into force. In other words, that the governor in council would determine at what time the expenditures associated with those clauses would be incurred.

This was a condition of the royal recommendation for Bill C-11, which members of the 37th Parliament accepted and which is, therefore, inseparable from the authorization for expenditures for a refugee appeal board.

Since Bill C-280 seeks to relax that condition by removing the Governor in Council's determination of the timing of the crown's expenditure, Bill C-280 is beyond the scope of the original royal recommendation and, I submit, should be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

Bill C-280--Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened as my colleague from across the way tried to put up a roadblock to Bill C-280. However, Bill C-280 is not an amendment to Bill C-11. We only ask for implementation. Bill C-11 already received royal assent. It has been voted on and studied. We only ask for the implementation of a measure included in Bill C-11. I do not see where the problem lies.

In concluding, I reserve the right to speak again to the issue.

Bill C-280--Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Once again, I thank the hon. member for Laval and the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their submissions on the issue.

I will take the matter under advisement.

I recognize that this bill is scheduled for debate tomorrow. I frankly doubt that I will have a ruling in time for the debate, so if by some chance the matter comes to a vote tomorrow at third reading, I am sure that hon. members will force the vote, and that the vote will then be deferred, as the rules require, until next Wednesday, which will give me ample time to render a decision that I hope will be satisfactory to all hon. members in respect of this bill.

Bill C-52--Budget Implementation Act, 2007--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River on April 17, 2007, concerning the procedural admissibility of Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007.

I would like to thank the hon. member Scarborough—Rouge River for having raised this issue as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his submission.

In raising this point of order, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River appealed to the Chair to find that Bill C-52 is improperly before the House by virtue of the provision included in subclause 13(1) of the bill, which amends paragraph 122.1(2)(b) of the Income Tax Act.

This provision, if enacted, would regulate the taxation of existing income trusts during a transitional period by providing for interim taxation rates based on the “Normal Growth Guidelines” issued by the Department of Finance on December 15, 2006.

The hon. member drew the attention of the Chair to the absence of a corresponding measure from a ways and means motion tabled on October 31, 2006, Ways and Means Motion No. 9.

In reviewing the hon. member's submission, it became apparent to the Chair that the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River must have been referring to Ways and Means Motion No. 10, tabled on November 2 and concurred in on November 7, 2006, since Ways and Means Motion No. 9 is still on the order paper and has not been concurred in.

That being said, the member is quite correct in pointing out that while the motion to which he refers does provide for a transitional exemption applicable to existing income trusts, it does not include the protocol based on the “Normal Growth Guidelines” which later appeared in subclause 13(1) of the bill.

Describing these “Normal Growth Guidelines” as “no more than a press release”, the hon. member characterized the effect of the provision in question as “a delegation of subordinate law, not by regulation nor by ministerial directive, but by press release”.

He expressed concern about the possibility alluded to in the minister's press release that criteria not included in the bill might be invoked after its coming into effect to rescind the taxation deferral with respect to specific income trusts and he declared that this would amount to the imposition of an unlegislated supplementary tax burden.

The hon. member went on to cite a number of authorities, including the Statutory Instruments Act, in support of his contention that subclause 13(1) of the bill attempts to exempt from parliamentary scrutiny by the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations a measure that is, in all but name, delegated legislation.

Finally, the hon. member stated that subclause 13(1) of the bill fails to conform to the government's own drafting guidelines, in particular to its standards for the making of proper subordinate law as expressed in the Guide to Making Federal Acts and Regulations promulgated by the Privy Council Office. He concluded with an appeal to the Chair to rule subclause 13(1) of Bill C-52 null and void.

The hon. government House leader responded to the point of order on April 19. On the issue of the prior inclusion of the provision of subclause 13(1) in a previously adopted ways and means motion, he drew the attention of the Chair to Ways and Means Motion No. 20, adopted by the House on March 28, affirming that the latter motion did indeed include the provision in question.

With respect to the argument that subclause 13(1) of the bill provides for the inappropriate delegation of the right to make subordinate law, he declared that the provision in question violates no procedural prohibition recognized by this House and is therefore a matter for debate. He added that the same principle applies to the issue of the conformity of the bill to the government's drafting guidelines.

The hon. Government House Leader also noted that it is not at all uncommon for bills to establish forms of delegated legislation not subject to the Statutory Instruments Act.

I have examined this matter with care in view of the complexity of the issues raised. As I have done on many occasions in the past, I must remind the House that my role here is restricted to ensuring that our rules of procedure and our practice are respected. Potential questions or difficulties with respect to the interpretation and future implementation of bills currently before the House are matters of law and are not for the Speaker to answer or resolve.

The legal status of the “Normal Growth Guidelines” issued by the finance department on December 15, 2006 and referred to in subclause 13(1) of the bill and the authority of the minister to issue such guidelines are likewise beyond the purview of the Chair. What does or does not fall within the definition of “statutory instrument” is a legal question and not one of procedure.

In our practice, the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations has the duty of examining whether the government is employing “the appropriate principles and practices...in the drafting powers enabling delegates of Parliament to make subordinate laws”. That quote comes from page 689 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice.

It is not, however, for the Speaker to rule on such questions or to evaluate the government's compliance with its own rules for drafting legislation. There is, furthermore, no procedural objection to making reference in legislation to documents which are not subject to review by the House or its committees. Whether provisions which do so should be adopted, amended or rejected is a decision for the House to make.

With regard to the issue of the link between ways and means motions and legislation based upon them, it is perhaps useful to quote a passage from House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 760. It states:

Ways and Means motions can be expressed in general terms, or be very specific, as in the form of draft legislation. In either case, they establish limits on the scope--specifically tax rates and their applicability--of the legislative measures they propose.

This principle is reflected in Standing Order 83(4), which states in part:

The adoption of any Ways and Means motion shall be an order to bring in a bill or bills based on the provisions of any such motion—

Having carefully examined the ways and means motions relevant to this question, the Chair agrees that the contested provision in subclause 13(1) of Bill C-52 does not appear in Ways and Means Motion No. 10, to which the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River refers, which was tabled on November 2 and adopted on November 7, 2006.

However, as the government House leader has indicated, the provision does appear in Ways and Means Motion No. 20 tabled on March 27 and adopted on March 28, 2007. Bill C-52 is based on Ways and Means Motion No. 20. Since the wording of the bill accurately reflects that of the motion, the Chair must conclude that the bill is fully in compliance with the requirements of Standing Order 83(4).

The other issues raised in the point of order of the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River, while interesting and cogently argued, are related to the substance of the bill and to legal issues arising therefrom and not to procedural considerations. While they may well be of interest to members as they consider this legislative proposal, they are beyond the purview of the Chair.

In conclusion, the Chair has not found any procedural irregularities in this matter. Subclause 13(1) of the bill and Bill C-52 as a whole are in order and the bill can proceed in its current form.

I would like to once again thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River for his vigilance in drawing these matters to the attention of the House.

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

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-22, an act to amend the Criminal Code of Canada regarding the age of protection.

This issue has been the subject of many private members' bills and proposed government legislation over many years and many studies by the Department of Justice.

It has also been the subject of much community interest, many white ribbon campaigns in strong support for raising the age of consent to 16 years of age while others have even advocated raising the age to 18.

Over the years the subject has generated numerous constituent letters, as well as press and editorial commentary in my riding of Welland. These representations have been heard and will be reflected in my support of the bill.

Bill C-22, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding age of protection, amends the Criminal Code to raise the age from 14 to 16 years at which time a person can consent to non-exploitive sexual activity. The existing age of consent of 18 years for exploitive sexual activity will be maintained. 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 of a young person.

Bill C-22 creates an exception with respect to an accused who engages in sexual activity with a 14 or 15 year old and who is less than five years older than the youth. It also creates an exception for transitional purposes for an accused who is married to a youth or who is the common law partner of a youth and is expecting a child with the youth and the sexual activity was not otherwise prohibited before the act comes into force. The bill maintains an existing close in age exception that exists for 12 or 13 year olds who engage in sexual activity with a peer who is less than two years older, provided the relationship is not exploitative.

The history of the age of consent has evolved considerably in the past century in that the existing Criminal Code prohibitions against sexual conduct with young people bears little resemblance to those that were in place as recently as 20 years ago.

Historically in Canada, the age of consent was 12 until 1890 when it was raised to 14. At no time has it ever been set higher than 14 in Canada. At one time Canadian criminal law did provide very qualified protection from sexual exploitation for females over 14. Between 1886 and 1988 there were several incarnations of a provision banning intercourse with a girl over 12 and under 16 who was of “previously chaste character”. This qualified protection for girls, not boys, applied only to intercourse and no other form of sexual contact.

In 1988 the qualified protection was revoked in favour of new offences called “sexual interference” and “invitation to sexual touching” that prohibit adults from engaging in virtually any kind of sexual contact with other boys or girls under the age of 14, irrespective of consent.

Introduced at the same time the offence of sexual exploitation also made it an offence for an adult to have any such contact with boys and girls over 14 but under 18 where a relationship of trust or authority exists between the adult and the child. This also means that child pornography includes any youth under the age of 18 regardless of consent.

The 1988 changes implemented more equitable, broad-sweeping protection for all young people regardless of gender, type of offence or the complainant's sexual history.

As time and further reflection have passed, an additional protection for youth has been advanced. In a previous Parliament, the Government of Canada tabled Bill C-2, the child protection act. As I do support raising the age of consent from 14 to 16, I was disappointed that Bill C-2 at that time did not do this, although I understand there was no consensus or agreement from the provinces which is required for this issue to move forward.

In its place the government proposed a new category of sexual exploitation that did not consider whether or not the young person, covering youth between 14 and 18 years of age, consented to sexual activity, but examined the relationship and motives of the accused.

The argument was that this provision should effectively prohibit any exploitive sexual activity between an adult and youth under the age of 18. I do think that this was a good provision and strikes at the heart of the intention of people who want to raise the age to 18. The call to increase the age of consent to 18 was all about protecting young people between the ages of 14 and 18 from exploitation and the new provision says that regardless of whether or not consent was given by the young person. I feel this is key. The nature of the power of dynamic in the relationship would be scrutinized by the court.

The current bill is not without its critics. One criticism of the bill that has been raised by those who generally support it is that the five year age exemption is too large. Rather than allowing a five year age gap, three years should be more than enough.

Some other supporters of the bill have proposed that the age of consent be set at 18. This would eliminate the anomaly of 16 year olds who can legally consent to have sex yet be unable to vote, serve in the military, smoke or drink. Many have argued that most teenagers do not have the maturity to handle the responsibilities that come with sex, such as practising safe sex and using reliable birth control. A more appropriate age of consent, they argue, would be 18, when one legally becomes an adult.

It is interesting to note that the most common age of consent in the United States seems to be either 16 or 18. Sixteen is the age of consent in Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong, Finland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, the Ukraine and the U.K. Canada is now coming in line with these other countries.

Bill C-22 also addresses Criminal Code provisions regarding luring a child. Section 172.1 of the Criminal Code creates the offence of using a computer system to lure children for the purpose of committing certain sexual offences. The section lists various sexual offences, which depend upon the age of the child. The offence is committed if the child is under the particular age specified or if the accused believes the child to be under that age.

Subsection 172.1(3) sets up a rebuttable presumption that the accused believed the child was under the relevant age if there is evidence the child was represented to the accused as being under that age. There is no defence that the accused believed the child was over the relevant age unless the accused took reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the child.

New paragraph 172.1(1)(b) will make 16 the relevant age for the offence of facilitating the commission of an offence under section 151, which is sexual interference, section 152, which is invitation to sexual touching, subsection 160(3), which is bestiality in the presence of a young person, or subsection 173(2), which is exposure to a young person. These offences are being added to a list that previously consisted only of section 280, which is abduction of a person under the age of 14.

The relevant age for all four of the added offences will be raised from 14 to 16. Thus, the use of a computer system to facilitate the commission of these offences when the complainant is less than 16 is being made an offence.

Since 16 will now be the relevant age, paragraph 172.1(1)(c) is amended to remove reference to the age of 14 for offences under sections 151 and 152 and subsections 160(3) and 173(2). Henceforth, luring someone under the age of 14 by means of a computer system will be an offence only if it is done to facilitate the commission of an offence under section 280(1), which is, again, the abduction of a person under 16.

Members of our police forces welcome Bill C-22 for the very message it sends. They see a fair number of people between the ages of 14 and 16 being manipulated by older predators. Any new tools the police can use to stop predators are most welcome.

The bill will also change the way police investigate child pornography, underage prostitution and Internet luring. There will be a new group of kids being protected and a new group of pedophiles being charged.

Protecting our children, however, goes beyond a simple and arbitrary increase of the age of consent to sexual activity. It means addressing the broader issues of the safety and well-being of our children. Our objective is to develop and maintain effective, comprehensive measures to support provincial and territorial measures to improve public safety for children and to protect children from serious injury and even death at the hands of adults.

The achievement of this objective rests in a collaborative effort by the provinces, the territories and the Government of Canada. While the provision of services to children who are in need of protection is the responsibility of the provinces and territories, the assurance that appropriate offences and penalties are available for serious harm done to children remains the responsibility of the Government of Canada. By targeting extreme forms of harm through the Criminal Code, the Government of Canada will provide strong support for provincial and territorial initiatives to protect children.

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague, the member for Welland, on his speech. He is typically very thoughtful and analytical and certainly his speech today is a reflection of those qualities.

I would like to ask him specifically about feedback, if any, from constituents in his riding. I will put this in the context of what I have heard from constituents in my riding of Brant, which is essentially that there is widespread approval for the passage of Bill C-22. My constituents tell me that the age of consent in fact should be raised from 14 to 16 and that by and large they are content with the five year close in age exemption, recognizing that there has to be some close in age exemption.

I wonder if the member for Welland has heard similar things from his constituents.

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker, my experience has been exactly the same as the hon. member's in his riding. There is a general feeling, a consensus and actually a shock when people perhaps appreciate that the age of consent is currently 14. The movement to increase it to 16 is seen as a very welcome initiative and one that will be well received in my riding.