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House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offence.

Topics

The House resumed from November 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, be read the third time and passed.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-22 at third reading.

As always, it is important that we recognize the support for the bill, throughout many years actually. All parties are supportive of the bill, so it clearly will go through. With the opportunity we have for the short amount of debate we will have on it, probably finishing today, we need to set, in context, how it has come to be this far into the process, why it has taken so long and the usefulness of the procedures that we mandate will have.

There is a big component here, I would hope, both in this debate, as Canadians listen to it and have up to this point, and on an ongoing basis, and that is the public educational aspect to the bill. If it is to be useful, we need greater co-operation from individuals who use the Internet on a regular basis.

To set the context, the bill requires companies that provide servers for the Internet to report what they consider to be child pornography to a specific agency, yet to be established. It will be identified and all service providers will be made aware of the agency. That is the first element.

Second, companies will have to report to the agency and if they are then, either by the agency or by a police forces, advised that they believe it is child pornography and that an investigation will take place, they will have to retain the material for a 21 day period. That will give police and prosecutors sufficient time to get a warrant to access the data and to trace back this material to its source. Our prosecutors need the 21 days to get a judicial warrant to get access to that information.

The bill is essentially about that.

To set it in its context of why this is so important, the first thing I would point out is an NDP member had a private member's bill dealing with these aspects, and a couple more, way back in the late 1990s. The subsequent Liberal governments did nothing to move on this, and I think I am accurate in that. If they did, they introduced a bill really late, in 2004, 2005. The Conservative government picked it up in 2006, but we are now in almost 2011. In fact, this clearly will not likely become law until 2011 by the time it gets through the Senate and royal assent. That is a full five years.

What has happened in that period of time is more children have been abused. Our police officers, prosecutors and judges have all been hamstrung, to a significant degree, in dealing with child pornography on the Internet because they have not had these tools. In that period of time, as much as the justice minister in particular and the Prime Minister stand regularly in the House and in public and accuse the opposition parties of slowing down bills, this one included, the reality is the government went to an election. Even though it said it would go to a fixed date election, it broke that promise and stalled the bill. We had two prorogations and both times this bill or its predecessors were stalled as well. In effect we have lost a full five years when we could have had this law. In fact, we should have had it as much as 10 years ago, and that is a real shame.

In terms of the ability of our police forces in particular, the bill would allow our police enforcement agencies to get at this material.

It is important to understand something else that happened in Canada. Paul Gillespie, a police officer in Toronto, was trying to deal with child pornography and child sexual abuse generally. He became really frustrated by the lack of technology. On his own initiative, and he is really a Canadian hero in this regard, he sent a letter to Bill Gates of Microsoft and said that police officers needed help, that they could not trace the material, which has exploded on the Internet.

We have always had child pornography. We could go back to ancient Greece, ancient Egypt and find child pornography. However, with the advent of the Internet and easy access by billions of people around the Globe, child pornographers put this material on to the Internet in huge volume.

Paul Gillespie found that the police could not trace this material back. Most of this material does not come out of Canada. A chunk of it comes out of the United States, and we can disagree on how much, and a large chunk of it comes out of eastern Europe and parts of Asia. Mr. Gillespie was trying to trace this back to the source, but this material, at times, will go through as many as 50 different servers.

He said to Bill Gates that the police did not have the technology to trace this back, that there were all kinds of walls built into the Internet that the police could not break through and he asked for help. To their great credit, Mr. Gates and his corporation provided resources to the tune of about $10 million in both actual dollars and in his staff. They built a software program with which we are now able to trace back, quite successfully, this material to its very source.

We have the problem, and I will be quite frank on this. When we have traced it back to various countries, there is no ability or, in some cases, no willingness on their part to shut these servers down and to prosecute the people who put it up originally. That is an ongoing problem. We need international co-operation. However, Canada has now become known as the country that developed, with the help of Mr. Gates and his company, the technology to trace it back.

Back to the bill and why it is so important. The service providers now have a legislated mandate that if they identify child pornography, they pass that information on to the new agency that will be created. One of the agencies we believe will be in competition for this role is the Cybertip.ca in Manitoba. Cybertip.ca was modelled after a program that started in the U.K. A centre was established in Winnipeg that regularly searches the Internet to try to find these sources and then passes that on to police agencies to try to track it down. I believe the federal funding for Cybertip.ca came in 2004, 2005 under the then Liberal government. I remember at the time criticizing the government for not giving it enough money.

We heard from the members of Cybertip.ca. They testified before the committee on this bill. They acknowledged that there was a good deal of additional work they would like to do to identify and trace this material and help the police in that regard.

Essentially people call Cybertip.ca to say that they have found a site with child pornography. Cybertip.ca then looks at it and identifies it to determine if it is prosecutable. It is passed on to the Canadian police forces that then pass it on to international ones.

Cybertip.ca has been very successful, but again, it is not properly funded. There is a lot of work it would like to do. When the director came to committee, she made it quite clear that it could easily double its work force to cope with that huge volume of child pornography on the Internet.

This is one of the potential agencies that may be identified under the regulations of the legislation as the agency to report to. I expect there may be other agencies that would bid in once the criteria and mandate for the agency is set up under the regulations.

This is a very positive development in terms of fighting child pornography. There is not an individual in the House, and very few Canadians, who are not totally revolted by this material. In a previous bill that dealt with the issue of child luring, some material was shown to the committee in camera. I have also had exposure to this through my practice while doing some criminal work. It is absolutely revolting to see, especially when it is very young children, babies who cannot even walk yet, involved with adults sexually abusing them.

It is absolutely crucial that we move on this. I am very critical of the current government and the previous government that it has taken us this long to get to this stage.

Our police officers can significantly move forward because of the ability to now gather this material through the service providers. They see, as much as everybody else does, that they will have an effect. There will be a greater number of people reporting on the existence of this material and where it exists. A secondary part of this bill will be the ability to get a quick search warrant to access the address. Through the website, which would already have been identified, they will be able to trace it back because of the software program developed through Microsoft. This will make it much more effective in fighting this scourge.

We cannot downplay the huge volume. It is speculated that not only child pornography but pornography overall takes up as much as 50% of all the material that is on the Internet internationally, and child pornography forms a significant part of that.

When the bill is passed, the government and the country will be able to move very dramatically. We will continue to take a leadership role on this. That leadership role is recognized internationally. At the international level, we need to continue to press other governments that have not been willing, or that may not have the capacity to go after these service providers to get to the sites from where the child pornography comes. We have to be as forceful as we can.

The estimate I have seen, and this is reasonably accurate, is less than 1% or 2% of this material is produced in Canada because of some previous legislation we passed and because of the technology Microsoft developed for us. Since that technology came online, it has been available to people like Mr. Gillespie. I refer to him as Mr. Gillespie because he has left the police force and has set up a non-profit agency to continue to fight child pornography.

From the time that technology became available, we have identified a few sites in Canada where child pornography is produced and we have shut them down.

In terms of advocating at the international level, we need to pressure governments, particularly in eastern Europe and Asia, to be more proactive at investigating these sites in their countries, shutting them down and prosecuting the producers.

A significant element has developed, again mostly out of eastern Europe and Asia, of organized crime producing this material and making millions if not billions of dollars off it. In all cases we are seeing children, sometimes at a very young age being abused because of the pornographers.

I want to mention a couple of concerns that I have about the legislation, and I would urge the government to monitor this.

One of the provisions in the legislation is that, if the service providers do not comply with those two responsibilities, one, to report when they identify it and, two, to save the material for that 21-day period, they can be prosecuted.

I must say that the penalties contained in the bill seem to be quite mild when compared with other penalties that the government has imposed in the child pornography area. There seems to be some deference on the part of the government because these are corporate criminals. I have some difficulty with that and we will have to monitor it.

The other problem with it is that I do not understand the rationale behind this. The government put a maximum, a two-year limit, on the time when providers can be charged. It is certainly not beyond the pale that we would identify a number of service providers after two years who knew this type of material was on their sites and did not report it, or they did report it but did not keep the material.

In the secondary case, we will know and we will be able to charge them within that two-year time limit. But for those service providers who identify material and do not report it, it is quite conceivable, almost a certainty I would think, that we will find that some of them have done it for more than two years and we will not be able to prosecute them. I heard no argument from the government as to why it picked the arbitrary period of two years. Other sections in the Criminal Code do not have a two-year time limit in terms of the right to prosecute.

I raised another concern when I spoke to this bill at second reading, and that was that small service providers would not be able to comply. I just want to assure the House and Canadians generally that they are a small percentage of the overall market. The large service providers take up as much as 90% to 95% of the market.

We asked the association representing small service providers to attend committee and tell us if it had any concerns about the bill. The association said there was no need for it to appear because it was satisfied that small service providers could comply with the law. That has been taken care of, as far as we can tell.

This is a very good bill, with the exception of our one concern over the length of time to charge and prosecute. We will have to monitor that.

It is clear, from the evidence we heard on the bill and on other legislation we worked on with regard to child pornography and child sexual abuse more generally, that we have a responsibility because of the leadership role we have taken up to this point. Slow as it has been on some occasions, we are still further ahead than a lot of other countries. We have to continue at the international level to press governments to build a capacity to fight this scourge and, if they do identify it, have the political will to prosecute vigorously to shut the sites down and prosecute the producers of the material.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the minister has announced that she will be putting $42 million more toward police efforts to essentially play cat and mouse with a bunch of criminals who will simply move to a different jurisdiction.

The question has been raised as to whether or not the government has looked at best practices in other jurisdictions. For example, Sweden evidently just simply blocks pornography sites, as does Germany. Other countries have other types of rules.

If we have that as an option, if we can simply block it, why do we not just stop torturing ourselves and spending all sorts of taxpayers' money chasing these people, when the odds are against our catching them in the first place because they move between sites and between countries. Why would we not simply block the sites if that option is available?

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a very good question. I cannot say that it came up much in the discussion on this bill. On a prior bill, again dealing with child luring over the Internet, in particular, there was discussion of that.

The only answer that I have had of any merit, and I do not want to sound as if I am defending the government's position, was again the problem of identifying the sites. We obviously cannot block them unless we know where they are. So, this bill would move forward on that. I would hope, based on all of the indications we have and what is happening in countries like Sweden, that we would move to that.

In that regard, I would like to just take another minute. I did a lot of work on public safety for a period of time. Within our CSE agency, we have some very advanced technology. If this were shared with our police forces, we would be able to do this blocking as effectively as any government that I have been able to identify, including the United States. We have technology, sort of in our spy agencies, that is as effective as any. The Chinese may be ahead of us on this because they are doing a great deal of blocking in China right now. However, we have the technology in Canada and we can do the blocking.

As I said, though, we would have to make that available, from our spy agencies and those services, to our regular police forces.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my second question deals with the issue of offences.

For example, in the case of individuals, we are talking about $1,000 for a first offence, $5,000 for a second offence and a maximum of $10,000 or six months for a third offence. For corporations, we are talking about $10,000 for the first offence, $50,000 for the second offence and $100,000 for the third offence.

I would expect that at the end of the day, if we strip away the veils, we would find that these pornographic sites are largely owned and run by criminal enterprises. I wonder whether or not these fines would be high enough, because they could be seen by criminal organizations as nothing more than the cost of doing business. They do not seem high enough to stop people who are making millions of dollars on these types of sites.

I would like to ask the member what he personally thinks about that. I recognize that we can always increase them in the future if, after a certain period of time, we find out that they are not high enough. However, it just seemed to me at the beginning that, if we are dealing with organized crime, perhaps these would not be high enough penalities here.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think we have to be careful in recognizing who those fines would be applied against, because we have other laws that can do that. They would not be applied against people who are producing the child pornography. They are obviously the ones we want to get at.

These fines would apply to individuals or companies who are service providers who have not co-operated and have not submitted, in effect, to the requirements of this legislation.

This goes back to the point I made earlier about my concern over the limit of two years. If we have a large corporation that provides a large amount of the service in this country that consistently has not complied with the legislation and we identify that, we could find ourselves only identifying it after the two-year period and not being able to prosecute.

If it is within the two-year period, but they have consistently done this and we finally identify that, it seems to me the fines would be too low, in that setting. What we would want is some relationship to the amount of revenue they have generated from those sites during that period of time before we got a chance to shut them down. That would be a more appropriate system for fining them.

However, with regard to organized crime and the other individuals or small groups who are producing this material, we have other penalties for them, most of which include fairly substantial periods of incarceration.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I did pay attention to the member's concern about the two-year limit not being long enough.

I would ask the member to explain that a little further. When we looked into this whole issue, we found that Canada was a large producer and host of this type of activity, with 9% of the worldwide number of sites. As a matter of fact, the United States was the largest at 49% of the total sites. Russia had 20%, Japan had 4.3% and South Korea had 3.6%.

We recognize that when efforts are being made to stamp these sites out, they will simply move on to other jurisdictions. This is a long-term effort here that is going to have be waged by jurisdictions. It just seems to me that we should be looking at best practices. We should be looking at the Swedish situation.

I do not know whether anyone at committee dealt with that particular issue. I would ask the member to deal with the issue of two-year limits and also the question of whether or not any witnesses were brought in who could give us some inside information about how the system is working in Sweden and other countries, including China.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, with regard to best practices elsewhere, no witnesses were called on this bill in this regard because we see this bill as one that transits us as a society into those next steps, which hopefully will be coming. We have had some of that evidence on previous bills.

With regard to the time limit, I have looked at some other jurisdictions and no one else has placed this time limit on it. I really could not understand the position. It was almost to the point of asking the government to take it out and let the general time limits in the code apply. I have had no sense from the government that it was prepared to make any compromise and withdraw this section, or if not withdraw it, then extend the period of time when prosecution could be brought against the service providers if they breached the legislation.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, back in June 2008 when I was in the Manitoba legislature we dealt with whole issue of Cybertip.ca.

At that time it seemed to have been a good idea. We supported it. I think the history of Cybertip.ca has been rather positive. The member is actually fairly knowledgeable in this area, so I would ask him to give us an update on that.

It is interesting that we have gotten more answers out of this member today than we have been able to get from any government member on this issue throughout the entire debate. As a matter of fact, we rarely see any government—

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh has the floor for a very brief response.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, Cybertip.ca is an excellent agency. It is very committed to the work its doing.

Again, as I said in my speech, the director who was here and gave evidence made it very clear that it could be doing a heck of a lot more. There is public education it would like to do. That is why it needs the additional resources.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is the House ready for the question?

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

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

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

moved that Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to commence second reading debate on Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children), also known as the protecting children from sexual predators act.

Bill C-54 fulfills the 2010 Speech from the Throne commitment to increase the penalties for child sexual offences. It builds on other concrete measures already taken by this government to tackle violent crime and in particular safeguard children against sexual offenders.

For example, the Tackling Violent Crime Act of 2008 raised the age of consent to sexual activity from 14 to 16 years to better protect Canadian youth against adult sexual predators. This same act also provided all Canadians with better protection against dangerous offenders by providing police, crown prosecutors and the courts which much needed tools to more effectively manage the threat posed by individuals at very high risk to reoffend sexually and violently.

In addition to reflecting the government's unwavering commitment to tackle violent crime, Bill C-54 addresses something that is near and dear to the hearts of all Canadians, namely the protection of our children against sexual predators.

There are many issues on which parliamentarians may disagree but the protection of children against sexual exploitation should never be one of them.

The proposals in Bill C-54 have two objectives: one, to ensure that all forms of child sexual abuse irrespective of how they are charged are always treated as serious offences for sentencing purposes; and two, to prevent the commission of sexual offences against a child.

Currently an individual who commits sexual abuse and exploitation of a child victim can be charged and prosecuted under either child specific sexual offences or under general sexual offences that apply equally to adult and child victims. In deciding how to proceed, police and crown prosecutors take many factors into consideration, including the facts and circumstances of the case and which offence best applies to those facts and circumstances, including the intended penalty for the possible offences.

The penalties that are imposed for child specific sexual offences differ significantly from those imposed for the general sexual offences in one key respect. Twelve of the child sexual offences carry mandatory minimum penalties, whereas none of the general offences impose any mandatory minimum penalties. No less troubling, not all child specific sexual offences carry minimum penalties.

Bill C-54 proposes to change this to ensure that mandatory minimum penalties apply in all sexual assaults where the victim is a child. Some may think that this discrepancy is relevant in practice, perhaps thinking that the majority of child sexual assaults are charged under the child specific offences and therefore are subject to mandatory minimum penalties. Sadly, this is not the case.

In 2008, 80% of all sexual assaults of children reported to police were charged under the general sexual assault offence in section 271 of the Criminal Code, sometimes referred to as a level one sexual assault; 19% were charged under one of the child specific or other sexual offences, such as for example section 151, sexual interference; and the remaining 1% were charged under the two most serious general sexual assault offences, levels two and three sexual assault, namely sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm under section 272, and aggravated sexual assault under section 273.

From a sentencing perspective, this means in 81% all sexual assault cases involving child victims in 2008, there was no mandatory minimum sentence.

I recognize there are some who will say that this does not matter because irrespective of the starting point, the sentence ultimately imposed must reflect the facts and circumstances of each case and must always denounce and deter child sexual abuse.

In our view, that is simply not good enough. This government and the majority of Canadians take the position that the deterrence and denunciation of the sexual exploitation of children must be strong and it must be consistently reflected in the sentences imposed in all of these cases. This means that the starting point for any sentence calculation must be a sentence of imprisonment and not a conditional sentence of imprisonment or house arrest as it is sometimes called.

This is the first thing that Bill C-54 proposes to do to ensure consistency. It proposes to impose a mandatory minimum penalty in all sexual offences where the victim is a child. Bill C-54 proposes to add mandatory minimum penalties to seven offences that do not currently impose mandatory minimum penalties.

I apologize to those who are listening, but the content is not the type of thing that anyone really wants to talk about. These offences are: section 155, incest; subsection 160(3), bestiality in the presence of or by a child; section 172.1, Internet luring of a child; section 173(2), exposure to a person under 16 years; section 271, sexual assault where the victim is under 16 years of age; section 272, sexual assault with a weapon, threats or causing bodily harm where the victim is under 16 years of age; and section 273, aggravated sexual assault where the victim is under 16 years of age. It is unfortunate that we even have to contemplate these things.

The second thing that Bill C-54 sentencing reforms would do is ensure that the mandatory minimum penalties, MMPs, imposed are commensurate for each offence and consistent with other offences.

Take for example the child-specific offence of invitation to sexual touching in section 152 of the Criminal Code. It is a hybrid or dual procedure offence. When proceeded with summarily, the offence carries an MMP of 14 days and a maximum of 18 months. On indictment it carries an MMP of 45 days and a maximum of 10 years. Clearly, these MMPs do not adequately reflect the correct starting point for calculating the sentence for that offence.

The MMPs for sexual touching are also inconsistent with those provided in other offences, such as making child pornography in section 163.1(2), which carries an MMP of 90 days and a maximum of 18 months on summary conviction, and an MMP of one year and a maximum of 10 years on indictment.

Accordingly, Bill C-54 would impose higher MMPs for seven existing child-specific sexual offences: section 151, sexual interference; section 152, invitation to sexual touching; section 153, sexual exploitation; subsection 163.1(4), possession of child pornography; subsection 163.1(4.1), accessing child pornography; paragraph 170(b), parent or guardian procuring unlawful sexual activity with a child under 16 or 17 years; and paragraph 171(b), householder permitting unlawful sexual activity with a child age 16 or 17 years.

As an example, for the offence of sexual interference in section 151, where the maximum penalty on indictment is 10 years, the proposed MMP would be increased from 45 days to one year of imprisonment. For the offence of possessing child pornography under subsection 163.1(4) where the maximum penalty on indictment is five years, the proposed MMP would be increased from 45 days to six months' imprisonment. On summary conviction for the same offences and for which the maximum penalty is 18 months' imprisonment, the proposed MMP would be increased from 14 to 90 days.

Bill C-54 also seeks to prevent the commission of a sexual assault against a child. It does so through two types of reforms: through the creation of two new offences and by requiring courts to consider imposing conditions prohibiting convicted or suspected child sex offenders from engaging in conduct that may facilitate their offending.

Many child sex offenders engage in practices that will facilitate their offending. For example, they may seek out occupations or recreational activities that put them in close contact with children. They may befriend children who they perceive to be in need of friendship or even financial help and then exploit that friendship by engaging in unlawful sexual activity with the child. They may provide the child with aids, such as sexually explicit materials to lower their sexual inhibitions, or they may make arrangements with another person that will result in the commission of a sexual offence against a child.

Bill C-54 proposes to better address this preparatory conduct by creating two new offences. The first offence would prohibit a person from making sexually explicit material available to a young person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual or abduction offence against the young person. Child sex offenders often give such material to their victims to lower their sexual inhibitions and/or to show them the conduct they want the child victim to engage in, or to make the child believe that other children do this too.

It is already an offence to provide such material for any purpose where it constitutes child pornography. Bill C-54 would make it an offence to provide other sexually explicit material to a young person for this purpose. The offence would apply to transmitting, making available, distributing or selling such material to a young person for this purpose and would apply whether it is provided directly in a face-to-face encounter or over the Internet.

Bill C-54 proposes a clear definition of “sexually explicit material”, a definition that is consistent with its use and interpretation in the child pornography section 163.1 of the code, and voyeurism section 162 offences. The proposed new offence would clearly only apply when the material is provided for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an enumerated sexual or abduction offence against that child.

This “for the purpose” criteria is used in the existing Internet luring of a child offence in section 172.1, and was recently interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada, in the R. v. Legare decision of 2009 as applying to preparatory conduct that helps to bring about, or make it easier or more probable for the young person to participate in the prohibited conduct. The proposed new offence would be subject to mandatory minimum penalties and a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment on summary conviction, and two years' imprisonment on indictment.

The second new offence proposed by Bill C-54 would prohibit using telecommunications, such as the Internet, to agree or make arrangements with another person to commit one of the enumerated sexual or abduction offences against a child. This offence was previously included in Bill C-46, the investigative powers for the 21st century bill, that the Minister of Justice had introduced in the previous session of Parliament and that died on the order paper on prorogation.

In addition to the new MMP and a more accurate marginal note or title for this proposed offence, it has also been modified from the former Bill C-46 version to ensure consistency with the other new offence being proposed by Bill C-54, and with the existing luring a child offence of section 172.1, all of which follow a similar approach.

For example, the listing of offences in each of these three offences will now all be consistent. Similarly, all three offences would be added to the child sex tourism provision in subsection 7(4.1), which would provide extraterritorial jurisdiction for a Canadian prosecution of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who engages in one of the enumerated child sexual offences while abroad.

Coordinating amendments with Bill S-2, the protecting victims from sex offenders bill, are also proposed to ensure consistent treatment of these offences for the purposes of the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, and DNA provisions in the Criminal Code.

This proposed new offence would fill a gap in our existing law. Currently the existing prohibition against the Internet luring of a child, in section 172.1, applies to communications between the offender and the child. This new offence would apply to communications between, for example, two adults who arrange or make an agreement that would in essence result in the sexual assault of a child. The new offence would better address this preparatory conduct and help to prevent the commission of the actual sexual assault against a child.

Bill C-54 also seeks to prevent convicted or suspected child sex offenders from having the opportunity to facilitate their offending. Finding access to a child or the opportunity to be alone with a child is a key for many child sex offenders. An increasing number of child sex offenders also use the Internet and other new technologies to facilitate the grooming of victims or to commit other child sex offences.

Currently, section 161 of the Criminal Code requires a sentencing court, at the time of sentencing a person convicted of committing one of the enumerated child sexual or abduction offences, to consider imposing a prohibition against the offender from frequenting places where children can reasonably be expected to be found, such as a playground or schoolyard, or from seeking or holding paid or volunteer positions of trust or authority over children, or from using a computer system for the purposes of communicating with a young person.

Section 810.1 of the code provides a comparable direction vis-à-vis conditions that could be imposed as part of a recognizance or peace bond against a person who is reasonably believed to be at risk of committing one of the enumerated child sex or abduction offences.

Bill C-54 proposes to expand the list of enumerated child sex offences to include four procuring offences. It would also broaden the list of prohibitions by directing a court to consider prohibiting the person from having any unsupervised access to a child under the age of 16 years, or from having any unsupervised use of the Internet. The objective of these conditions is to prevent the suspected or convicted child sex offender from being provided with the opportunity to sexually offend against a child or to use the Internet to facilitate such offending.

In summary, Bill C-54 builds upon numerous past and current legislative reforms and initiatives to better protect all children against sexual abuse and exploitation.

It proposes sentencing reforms to ensure that all sexual assaults against a child victim are equally and strongly denounced and deterred through consistent and coherent mandatory minimum sentences. It also proposes reforms to prevent the commission of sexual assault against children.

I hope that all hon. members will support the expeditious enactment of these reforms to provide children with the protection they need and deserve.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have one major concern with the bill, and that is the provision of the sexually explicit material. I understand the Supreme Court of Canada made reference to this. It is common knowledge, and anybody, whether psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker, who has worked on cases involving child sexual abuse is well aware of the technique that pedophiles use to engage younger children as well as teenagers by using sexually explicit material.

I have a question for the parliamentary secretary and my colleague on the justice committee. I am concerned by the way the bill has been drafted. I am asking if the justice department in particular has analysed it from this perspective: whether, by the way this section has been drafted, it will be seen by the courts as a way of getting around the definition of child pornography as it exists in this country now and as the courts have found in a repeated number of cases. Is it a technique to get around the definition so that if this material that is shown to a young person does not amount to child pornography, will the courts say that it does not fit into the definition of child pornography, it is way beyond the scope of child pornography, and strike the charges down because of that, under the charter, because it would be a charter argument?

I am just asking if the department has looked at it from that perspective. I hope I have made my question clear enough. I rambled a bit there.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and the statement he made earlier today on Bill C-22 that all hon. members agree and have an interest in making our laws more restrictive to ensure that no child is ever sexually abused in Canada.

With respect to his specific question, I can assure him that the department did look at the way the definitions of child pornography mesh with the provisions of material to a child for the purposes of grooming the child for sexual abuse. It is the view of the government and the department that both will withstand any charter challenge.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask a question on the bill. As a father of two young girls, there is no bill we are currently looking at that has more for parents like me to be concerned about than the safety of our own children, so the bill goes a long way to address some of the concerns that we have.

I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary would address a point. My understand is that house arrest would no longer be one of the provisions that would be allowed for those people who have been convicted of some of these horrific crimes. I am wondering if he could express to me an assurance that the bill does address the fact that these people who have been convicted of these horrific crimes will not be let back into the communities, many times the same communities in which they committed their crimes.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question, for his concern and the good work he does to protect children in all of the matters he does, working on behalf of his constituents. I can assure him that the provisions of Bill C-54 will remove the possibility of a conditional sentence for a child sexual offender, and will replace it with a series of mandatory minimum penalties ranging from six months to 18 months of incarceration.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, while I certainly support the intent of this bill, I wonder whether we will see a move on the part of some of these people to engage in sex tourism in other countries. We have had that problem for many years, and the countries change over the years. Thailand was a big source for this activity and I am sure there are other countries.

Does the government have any plans, or is it making any effort, to make certain that we are enforcing our own sex tourism laws? What efforts are being made to deal with other countries to toughen up their laws?

If all we do is export the problem somewhere else, we are not really getting ahead on a worldwide basis.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice very frequently bring these issues up at international conferences, as do our ambassadors and foreign affairs officials around the world. They continually make the case that other jurisdictions must pass the same kinds of legislation that we have here in Canada against child sexual offences and they must enforce them.

In that regard, as the member will know because I know he listened intently to my speech, I said earlier today that Bill C-54 includes a provision, which will be in subsection 7(4.1) of the Criminal Code, that will provide extraterritorial jurisdiction for Canadian prosecution of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who engages in one of the enumerated child sexual offences while abroad.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member whether the government has any plans for a criminal injuries compensation fund similar to the fund we have in Manitoba that was set up under the NDP government of Ed Schreyer in 1969 or 1970.

There is a lot of damage caused to people on a long-term basis. Does the government have any way for these victims of crime to receive compensation? Are there any plans afoot to have a federal victims' compensation fund or provisions like that?