Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children), is to increase the mandatory minimum penalties for certain sexual offences with respect to children.
I will digress a little and explain what a child is. A child is any person from the age of 0 to 16 years. It was the Liberal opposition that pushed this age of consent and finally drove the government to pass this legislation.
Bill C-54 was introduced on November 4 by the Minister of Justice. It would increase or impose mandatory minimum penalties for certain sexual offences with respect to children.
When one looks at the various changes to the subsections of the Criminal Code and one looks at the minimum penalties for different offences, it is important that the bill, which we support, goes to committee. A lot of issues need to be addressed and a lot of witnesses need to be called. It is important that everybody speaks from the same page because children are a very important asset. We have heard about heinous things being done to children. Not a day goes by without hearing a report on sexual activities against children. It is important that the bill is sent quickly to committee so we are able to really put into effect protection for children.
The bill would impose mandatory minimum penalties for certain sexual offences with respect to children. It would also prohibit anyone from providing sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that child.
With the proliferation of things going back and forth on the Internet at such high speeds, it is very important that we look at this issue very critically. With the providing of sexually explicit materials to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against the child, one needs to figure out how that child would be implicated, how the adult was involved and one needs to figure out through what means this was done.
The bill would also prohibit anyone from using any means of telecommunication, including a computer system, to agree or make arrangements with another person for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against a child. Too often we have seen the ramifications of child pornography where children are used as sexual toys for the pleasure of adults who have absolutely dehumanized them.
This is an important aspect of the bill because we need to understand how we would catch the perpetrators, how we would ensure that children are protected and how we would ensure that a child understands because children aged 0 to 16 are naive and vulnerable. They are our asset that needs to be protected. They believe in people.
I attended a memorial service for the victims of the December 6 massacre. I listened to Stevie Cameron talk about girls, about the fact that children are taught that they can do anything possible, that they are the masters of their destiny, and about how we protect these children and then suddenly somebody takes their life away.
With this bill, I am hoping we are able to not only ensure that the laws are in place but that we have a mechanism in place that will enforce the protection of our children, not only in Canada but worldwide because if we look at what is happening in today's age, we see child trafficking across the globe.
If we look at the sex trade or visitors who go to places like Thailand to have sex with little children, it is pornography that gives them that problem. It is the access to pornographic sites on the Internet that dehumanizes the poor child. Therefore, it is important that when we are looking at all of these aspects we are consistent in our enforcement, in what we do.
The third thing that the bill will do is ensure consistency among those two new offences and the existing offence of luring a child. Here I would like to bring to bear what happened to Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. They were unsuspecting kids who were lured by a pedophile, and we reflect upon how this bill may have protected them or given a harsher sentence to Karla Homolka.
The fourth thing that the bill would do is expand the list of specified conditions that may be added to prohibition and recognizance orders to include prohibition concerning contact with a person under the age of 16 and the use of the Internet or other digital networks, and expand the list of enumerated offences that may give rise to such orders and prohibitions.
That brings me to what has been happening currently. Our kids go onto computers and they are more computer savvy than their parents. They access Internet sites and the parents are probably not aware of it. These may be latchkey kids or they may be kids whose parents are at home, but when they are locked in their rooms and they are on Facebook, they have no idea who they are communicating with. It is important that we have checks and balances in place that go after the providers of Internet services to ensure the protection of these kids, to ensure the traceability of the information.
The protection of children is a priority for the Liberal Party. As a party, we have stood firmly against the proliferation of online child pornography for over a decade. In 2002, the former Liberal government made it illegal to deliberately access a website containing child pornography, rather than just having possession of such materials, and it was the Liberal government that put into place Cybertip.ca, an online reporting tool for child pornography. Cybertip is an important tool because, as I mentioned, with the Internet and its proliferation, it is important that we know how to trace the source, to ensure that our children are safe, to ensure that we find the children who have been abducted for the purpose of the sex trade, and to find the perpetrators.
Making laws without having the tools or the means to enforce them does not make for good law, so I hope that when this legislation goes before committee, it will be calling on numerous witnesses so that they can have a wholesome discussion and a wholesome production. I am pleased to see that Bill C-54 introduces a series of new minimum penalties for crimes against children, but as I mentioned, the bill has so many other permutations and combinations that it is important that it be looked at properly at committee. The Liberals will be supporting this legislation to go before committee, in order to hear from a variety of witnesses, and we will assess at that time whether the Conservatives have introduced sufficient penalties or whether additional amendments are required.
As I mentioned earlier, what comes to mind here is the Paul Bernardo case. When he and his wife abducted two kids, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, it horrified Canadians. It horrified the whole country to know that such heinous crimes could be committed, that we had such disturbed individuals in our midst.
My question would be does the bill do enough to ensure that what happened with Karla Homolka, who was able to reduce her sentence through plea bargaining, cannot happen again? We all want safe communities. We all know that there are sick minds that access the Internet and pornographic sites that dehumanize children and women. This dehumanizing makes victims be treated as objects of pleasure.
If one looks at the five things that the bill has introduced, I would love to see a very strong enforcement tool that would allow police officers, or people who are given the duty to ensure enforcement, to be able to access the material, to be able to trace the source, be able to ensure that protection takes place, be able to facilitate that information whether it be across Canada or with Interpol or other agencies, because this type of crime, as I mentioned earlier, is not only done in Canada but is worldwide.
Children being abducted for the purpose of sex slavery is a horrendous crime and it is a crime against all children. In countries in the developing world where they do not have the same protection we need to ensure that when we enforce legislation we have a global approach to it because the globe is where we need to look at. A troubled mind will do anything.
We need to also invest in areas like mental health and education. The Liberals unconditionally supported Bill C-22, which would make the reporting of Internet child pornography mandatory for Internet service providers and other persons providing Internet services. In fact, we believe that the government took too long to bring this to bear and we need to ensure that if we are serious about crimes against children, if we are serious about protecting them, if we are serious about ensuring that children have safe lives, that we live in safe communities, that we are not always looking over our shoulder, or over the Internet to ensure the safety of our children, then we need to see that Bill C-54 be sent quickly to committee and be looked after.
Today, December 6, is a day of remembering the 14 women who were gunned down by a crazy person. These were students at university. Violence against women is not just violence against women themselves, but it is violence against children as well. When a woman is abused it affects the child and the psychology of that child. It affects the whole family. It makes the family dysfunctional. Violence against women that results in death at the hands of a spouse, or common-law partner, or a deranged person still makes society unsafe.
It is important that the government not speak from both sides of its mouth. If we want smart solutions for violent crimes then we need to ensure that our gun laws are strict, that registration is there, that women and children are protected.
I would urge the government not to just see things in silos but to take a holistic approach to this bill. I would ask the government to ensure that we have a wholesome discussion on the bill and that we find a solution relevant to the whole community.