Mr. Speaker, Bill C-54 purports to deal with child sexual abuse. To some degree that title is accurate, although significantly overblown.
I know we were hearing some of this in questions and comments in the last member's debate, but there is no question that there is a need for Parliament and the government at the federal level, being responsible for the Criminal Code, criminal legislation, and the whole criminal justice system, to establish reforms in this area. By that I mean legislative reforms. That is Parliament's responsibility.
I want to be very clear, though, that the role we can play at the legislative level in terms of its effectiveness in preventing this type of crime is small in comparison with what our courts, meaning judges, prosecutors and police in particular, could be doing with added resources. The role we are going to be playing in the discussion and debate around this bill, and hopefully, ultimately passing, probably with some significant amendments, will help our police and prosecutors in particular in doing their jobs. There are some provisions in this bill that do that.
On the other hand, the bill is all too typical of the approach by the government to the criminal justice system, to think entirely in terms of punishment and deterrence, even when all of the evidence shows that it does not work in making our society and streets safer, and in particular, in preventing future crime. There is absolutely no evidence.
It is interesting that one of the ministers was asked by a local reporter to provide studies that showed that deterrence works. The minister sent several articles, two of which actually advocated that deterrence did not work and the other one was totally inconclusive. That was the best evidence the minister could come up with.
The government does not drive its legislation, whether in the criminal justice area or elsewhere, by the facts or the evidence but purely by ideology. The government's ideology is very narrow in terms of how it thinks it can make the criminal justice system work better and it all centres on punishment.
We see in the bill a huge number of additional mandatory minimums, which I will come back to, but before I do, we have to set the context with regard to who we are dealing with. As I said earlier, this bill is about the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children. There is no question that it is going on and has gone on forever in society. What the Conservatives see when they are addressing this type of perpetrator is the classic, stereotypical pedophile, people who do not have the ability to control their violent tactics and sexual urges.
About five years ago we were dealing with another bill under the Liberal administration that dealt with sexual abuse. In the course of those hearings, three witnesses, who by any standards and recognition had the best credentials in the country, gave testimony. They were experts specifically in the field of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, sexual crimes against children.
I want to be very clear. These were not people who are soft on these perpetrators, but they were extremely knowledgeable. All three of them took a quite similar approach in terms of the analysis of who we are dealing with and how best to deal with them.
They broke down the perpetrators into three categories. First is the stereotypical one, and they are there; they are not made up. They are not just figments of the Conservatives' imagination, but they are a very small proportion. These are the ones who we lay people would refer to as being hard-wired. Basically all three of these witnesses, two of whom were psychiatrists and one was a psychologist, said these people are either impossible to deal with in the sense of any treatment or any way of bringing them back from their totally reprehensible conduct, or very difficult to almost impossible. But it was a relatively small percentage of all the perpetrators of the crimes that are committed.
They then said there is a second category that is workable but very difficult.
Then there is the final category. Usually they are young offenders, individuals over 18, so they are in the adult criminal justice system, but still relatively young. Oftentimes it is their first offence of a sexual nature against other children and they are treatable relatively easily. By that I mean counselling, supervision, mentoring, and in some cases, penalties from the criminal justice system, but are treatable.
In fact, what came out in terms of the percentages was that the hard-wired perpetrators account for probably 5% to 7% of all the child sexual abuse crimes that are committed in this country. The middle group is 30% or 35%, or maybe 40%. The balance is as much as 50%, the ones who are treatable.
Having set that context, we then look at the bill and what the government has done here, with a few exceptions, is to take sections of the code where there already are mandatory minimums, but from the government's perspective, they are not tough enough, and it is increasing these.
With regard to those, there are a couple of exceptions and I want to be clear on this, where in fact we may be dealing with hard-wired convicted persons and those mandatory minimums are appropriate. However, the vast majority of the mandatory minimums that the government is introducing here, either as new ones, and there are five or six new ones, or the other 15 or 20, are simply increases.
The people that the government is going to go after, on whom the mandatory minimums are going to be imposed, fit into that larger category, first offenders, people who in fact can be treated. What is going to happen is what is happening already. They are going into the provincial system, because there are no mandatory minimums in here of more than two years. All the mandatory minimums run from 30 days up to one year.
All these people are going to go into provincial institutions, and in most cases, are going to go into local jails and spend their time there after conviction. They are going to get absolutely no treatment. They are going to be exposed to other more serious criminals, some of those serious pedophiles, the hard-wired ones. They are going to learn new techniques to be able to access, for instance, child pornography and the whole pedophile network. So they are actually going to learn how to perpetuate, when they come out, the crimes that they went in for. They are going to get absolutely no treatment, because for the short periods of time that they are there, none of the provinces have programs in place that will provide them with any treatment. They are just not there long enough.
So the mandatory minimums are going to do nothing in terms of preventing these individual criminals from committing crimes in the future. In fact, in every argument we have made, we will actually be exposing society to a greater number of crimes because of the length of time that they are going to be spending in custody.
I want to go through a number of these sections. Clause 3 of the bill moves the mandatory minimum from six months to one year if it is an indictable offence.
Currently if it is a summary conviction offence, which is the Crown making the decision that the offence is not very serious and will proceed in that way, it is now moving to what is now a mandatory minimum under that section, from 14 days to 90 days. In reality, of the 90 days, the person will get a at least a third of the time off, if not two thirds of the time. So instead of spending 7 days in jail, he or she will spend 30 days in jail.
Other than the Conservative Party saying that it is tough on crime and trotting out victims' groups for photo ops, in those circumstances this bill does nothing to prevent that criminal, who has committed and been convicted of a crime, from re-offending, or in effect build in some real prevention mechanisms to see to it that that person is given the proper counselling, the proper supervision, the proper mentoring so that they do not go back out and re-offend under the same types of circumstances.
Going through clause 4, again an indictable offence, currently an offender would spend 45 days in custody and that is being moved up a year. For a summary conviction it is 14 days to 90 days, and we can just go through section after section.
This is not about being at all serious about dealing with this perversion in terms of adults perpetuating oftentimes quite serious violent acts and at the very least minimally violent acts on children.
How do we properly deal with this? All of the evidence we have shows that these silly mandatory minimums have nothing in the way of a preventive mechanism in them. There is none whatsoever.
As a legislature we are going to be able to say that we think this is bad and we want the judge to give more difficult or harsher penalties. The reality is that if we leave this to the judges, in some cases they will impose even harsher sentences and in other cases it will be less.
However, they will also see to it, if it is a probationary order, that once the offender is out of custody that a probation order in fact has meaningful provisions in it so that the supervision, mentoring, counselling and treatment, psychological and psychiatric, is in fact imposed, and in the vast majority of cases, especially in that 50% of files, is successful in preventing and seeing to it that the person does not commit another crime of this nature.
It is a major problem with this legislation. As we have heard from other members of my party, there are other parts of this bill that we have been pressing both the Liberal administration, when it was in power, and the government for well over a dozen years to push for a real, strong, clear mechanism within the Criminal Code to deal with the luring of children under 16 years of age, over the Internet, by telephone and in any number of ways.
The government is moving on this. Currently the luring provision in the code that it is amending talks about just a computer, and now what it is proposing to do is to expand that into telecommunications, using that terminology. It is still too narrow. There are other ways and there are going to be other ways. Anyone who would stand in this House and suggest that we have gotten all means of technology for communicating under our control and use is being extremely naive or ignorant of where we are going with our technology.
We need broader language. It is kind of interesting. One of the sections in this bill, an amendment to the existing code, is really giving judges more authority to restrict communications. In looking at the way communications is defined, it is a very broad wording. It basically says one cannot communicate with anybody under 16 years of age.
We need that kind of wording. That is what was in the NDP private members' bills, talking about communications by any means if the intent is to lure a child, anyone under the age of 16, into a sexual relationship. We need that kind of broad wording.
The government has been extremely narrow in its expansion and that is one of the reasons we will be looking to amend this bill when it gets to committee, and clearly it is going to get to committee. The government is now moving from just a computer definition to a broader telecommunications definition, but it is still not broad enough. I believe that in the future, and even now with some of the material, we may have any number of instances where people may be charged under this section but come forward with technical defences that it will not fit within the definition of telecommunications.
We need to call expert evidence at committee as to ways we can look at technology as it is now and broaden it beyond just the telecommunications wording. Hopefully we would have someone with vision who can look down the road to the next 10 to 20 years and come up with wording that will catch the future developments in our ability to communicate, especially in this kind of criminal activity. That is one area where I believe we do need amendments.
The other concern we have with this bill is that we think there may be an attempt on the part of the government to get around the Sharpe case. As members will recall, that was the individual from British Columbia who was ultimately able to convince the court that it was not pornography that he had produced. However, the government is moving from the current definition of child pornography to saying that it is an offence to use sexually explicit material in the course of this type of offence under various sections that are in this bill and in the code more generally. In effect, it is a crime.
The worry I have is that we may be exposing a number of defences here that are not needed. We will probably need to look to constitutional experts under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other people from the arts and culture community on whether this would expose us to a long run of litigation, perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court. We need to determine whether this is an end-run around the Sharpe case, and I do not think there is any reason to do that. We are trying to get at the perpetrators of these crimes. I think this is dangerous as it may refocus attempts to seriously get at those hard-wired perpetrators. They are the ones we really have to be after.
Also, and I do not see the bill addressing this at all, a good deal of child pornography is produced by organized crime. There does not seem to be anything in this bill that is really addressing that in terms of the production of that material.
There are a couple of sections in here specifically on the age of consent, and this goes back to other bills that we have worked on. We supported raising the age of consent; however, the Conservatives at one point were prepared to criminalize as many as 800,000 of our youth in this country, by raising the age of consent. If the sexual act was between people who were within five years of each other, it would be a criminal act. We built in that defence, but there are a couple of sections in here where I think we may be faced with the same problem. We would be criminalizing sexual activity between people who are within four or five years of each other, who may be about the same maturity age, but one is chronologically younger than the other. I think we have to take a look at that and build that defence into a couple of these sections as well.
I see my time is up and I will be happy to take questions.