Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak at the third reading of Bill S-2.
The significance of this bill cannot be overstated. It will help police prevent and investigate sex offences by having access to more complete information about convicted sex offenders. The result is quite simply that we can better protect our children, youth and adults.
Our government is committed to keeping Canadians safe and secure, and the legislation before us today is a crucial step forward in helping us meet that commitment. Most importantly, we want to give police the information and tools they need in order to do their jobs more effectively. This is an issue that affects all Canadians, young and old, in big cities or rural centres. We are all looking for a system that better protects communities against crimes of a sexual nature.
It is obvious from the support this legislation has received from hon. members that this is a priority for all of us. Together we are making a statement that the status quo is no longer acceptable and that the national sex offender registry must be strengthened.
We are saying that we are committed to both preventing sexual crimes and ensuring that police are aware of all convicted sex offenders in our communities so that they can carry out their investigative work more effectively.
Since coming into power in 2006, our government has made it a key priority to protect our citizens. We have acted decisively to crack down on crime and to ensure the safety and security of our neighbourhoods and communities.
In the 2010 Speech from the Throne, we told Canadians we would take action to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, and that is exactly what we will accomplish with Bill S-2.
The support we have seen for Bill S-2 from all hon. members shows that we all want the same thing: a Canada that is safer for everyone. That is certainly the message we have received from Canadians who have raised important questions about whether certain provisions of the justice system are as effective as they can be.
Canadians have also asked why we have a national sex offender registry that does not include all sex offenders and why we have a registry that, frankly, does not offer greater protection for the most vulnerable among us, our children.
Bill S-2 continues our work to address the concerns of Canadians by amending the Sex Offender Information Registration Act and the Criminal Code to provide Canadians with a national sex offender registry and a national DNA databank that will more effectively offer Canadians that kind of security. It responds to the concerns and recommendations from victims' groups and from our partners in the provinces and territories with whom we have consulted extensively on how we can make the registry truly effective.
The bill also responds to the concerns and recommendations of law enforcement agencies. It includes amendments put forward by both the government and the opposition that further address shortcomings in the existing legislation.
First and foremost, Bill S-2 will ensure that every person convicted of a sexual offence is added to the national sex offender registry automatically and that every person added to the registry will also be required to provide a DNA sample to the national DNA databank.
At present, convicted sex offenders are added to the registry only after an application is made by the Crown. This leaves open the possibility that offenders can challenge the application and, if successful, their names would not be included in the registry.
By making the registration of sex offenders automatically, Bill S-2 eliminates the chance that police may not have knowledge of all convicted sex offenders.
This legislation will also transform the national sex offender registry into a proactive tool for law enforcement agencies. As it exists now, police can access information in the registry only after a sexual crime has been committed in order to help them investigate who may be responsible. This is certainly useful in bringing offenders to justice, but it does little to prevent crime.
With these changes in place, for example, if police see suspicious activity at a community centre, a shopping mall or a school yard, they will be able to access the registry in order to prevent a potential crime of a sexual nature. They will be able to find out whether the person involved is a registered sex offender and obtain other information to assist them in their work.
Since this bill was first introduced in the House, several other amendments have been made to strengthen the legislation. For example, officials will be authorized to include new information in the database, such as a registered sex offender's method of operating in relation to the offence. This would provide police with valuable information regarding how a sex offender carried out his or her crime and any unique aspects in this regard, which could help them identify potential suspects in a case more quickly and effectively.
Another change is a provision regarding vehicle registration information. I am sure we have all heard or seen reports of threatened or actual sex offences where the police have little to go on beyond a vague description of the vehicle involved, such as a white car with four doors or a dark brown van.
We have also seen how a detailed description of the vehicle used by an offender can lead to a quick arrest. With this change in place, registered sex offenders will be required to report the make, model, year, body type and colour of any vehicle registered in their names and any other vehicles that they may use on a regular basis, such as a company car or truck.
Bill S-2 also includes a provision that would allow travel notifications to police in other jurisdictions when a registered sex offender is travelling through or to their area. This is particularly important with respect to high-risk sex offenders.
This also includes the notification of police in other countries, in keeping with our international responsibility with regard to sex tourism and the protection of our children abroad. In this regard, Bill S-2 also includes provisions to include in the national sex offender registry individuals who have been convicted of sex offences abroad and then returned to Canada. These measures requiring proper sharing of information are significant improvements over the existing legislation. They would further ensure the registry is truly useful in protecting public safety.
Bill S-2 is an important piece of legislation, and the time has come to pass this bill and show Canadians that we are serious about ensuring their safety. This bill would ensure all sex offenders who should be on the national sex offender registry are on the registry, and it would provide police with the information they need to protect our children and other valuable members of our society from sex offences before they occur.
Bill S-2 is a thorough and effective response to legitimate concerns and recommendations that have been expressed by police, by victims' rights groups, by our provincial and territorial partners and by Canadians. I ask all hon. members to unanimously support Bill S-2 and help our government fulfill this pledge to Canadians to protect our most vulnerable from harm.