Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that, as you are no doubt aware, the Bloc Québécois will support Bill S-2 on the sex offender registry.
This bill is an exact copy of Bill C-34, as amended by the committee during the last Parliament. We supported Bill C-34 in principle. We heard from witnesses who reinforced our position and we put forward amendments that were agreed to. We also proposed amendments to Bill S-2, but unfortunately, they were defeated because the Liberals supported the Conservatives. We proposed amendments relating to the automatic registration feature that my colleague discussed earlier.
This is another example of how the Bloc Québécois works bill by bill in an effort to be constructive without sinking to the level of grandstanding that we have come to expect from this government.
We believe that we must make tools available to the police that, on the one hand, are effective at preventing and fighting crime and, on the other hand, do not constitute an unjustified and disproportionate breach of fundamental human rights.
As all of my colleagues have said, we all worked well together on this. Bill S-2 seeks to make the sex offender registry more effective and more useful to the police. This is a critical tool for preventing sex crimes and supporting sex crime investigations.
This bill helps strengthen existing legislation on sex offender information registration, which came into force on December 15, 2004. It would enable authorities to include more individuals convicted of sex crimes on the registry and would record more information about those individuals, including DNA.
This bill would also strengthen obligations that apply to individuals listed on the registry, such as those related to moving or being away from their residences for an extended period of time.
The bill adds new violations requiring registration and, in clause 5, makes some changes in the procedure by which courts will order inclusion in the registry.
In the case of so-called “hands-on” sexual offences, which are generally quite serious, the current regime allows the Crown to decide whether or not to ask the judge to have the person included in the registry. Under the new regime, which will be in place shortly with the passing of this bill, the attorney will no longer have to make the request; it will be a question for the courts to decide upon. It must announce its decision when the sentence is handed down and automatically order the person to comply with the requirements of the law; this is automatic inclusion.
In addition, this new clause abolishes the exemption, or exception, that currently applies when an offender establishes that their inclusion in the registry and the resulting impact on them, including on their privacy or liberty:
...would be grossly disproportionate to the public interest in protecting society...
Consequently, a hands-on sexual offence would result in automatic inclusion in the registry.
One thing is certain: at some point we will have to evaluate how the registry fits into all of this because there will be a lot of names in it. Witnesses told us that when there are a lot of names in the registry, it is less effective.
In terms of DNA samples—and this is somewhat related to the question I asked my Conservative colleague earlier—representatives from the two laboratories that do these tests clearly told us, when we met with them, that investigations are underfunded and that there are delays because it takes time for them to analyze the samples. These delays mean that these crimes sometimes go unsolved.
If it is urgent, they are efficient. But some samples may sit for a year before being analyzed because there are not enough resources.
Not only were they waiting for an agreement with the federal government, but they were also hoping to get more funding. It is all well and good to have legislation in place, but we need to have the means to enforce it. Will any money be invested in this bill? It is important to note that more and more people will be added to this registry, so there will also be more and more requests for DNA analyses.
Coming back to my point, when a direct sexual offence is committed, registration is automatic; however, for other designated crimes, it is up to the crown prosecutor to determine whether or not to apply to the court.
Clause 40 is another interesting point in the bill, because it makes a major change to how the registry can be used. This is very important, because it has to do with the notion of prevention. Under current legislation, the registry can only be used when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a sexual offence has been committed. Bill S-2 allows police to consult the registry for prevention purposes.
Consider the example of Cédrika Provencher, a tragic incident that took place not too far from us. What is interesting about this case is that the registry could have been consulted, which would have allowed for more effective prevention. However, according to the information we heard, some sex offenders had already been identified in that area, which the police were able to verify. As we know, when a child is kidnapped, it is important to find him or her within the first 24 hours. After 48 hours, the situation becomes even more worrisome, and as time passes, the chances of finding the child diminish considerably.
Clearly, this greater openness to prevention will have to be examined more closely to ensure that it is not used inappropriately. I trust the professionalism of police officers, but the fact remains that sooner or later we must have a closer look at this provision. Personally, I think it is a measure that could save lives.
The bill also proposes another worthwhile amendment. If this bill passes, there will be a correlation among offences that lead to inclusion in the sex offender registry and the sex offender's obligation, as I was saying earlier, to provide a DNA sample to the national DNA data bank. The bill will amend section 487.04 of the Criminal Code, which already requires a judge to order that such a sample be taken when a primary designated offence, a very serious offence, has been committed.
If the bill is so good, then why has it not passed yet? There are a number of answers to that question: first, this government nearly always introduces what at first is an absurd bill, ensuring that everyone is against it and wants to amend it; second, this government has gotten in the habit of putting on a show in the name of public safety; third, this government claims that these things are important and then turns around and prorogues the House, allowing all the bills to die on the order paper.
The opposition is not responsible for this delay. I have seen my colleagues work hard on getting this bill passed and on making worthwhile amendments to make the bill even better. I feel that the blame lies with the government, which unfortunately does not put its money where its mouth is. This is not the first time we have seen the Conservatives do this. I would not be bringing this up if I did not have a number of other examples.
Take for example former bills C-46 and C-47, which have been renamed and brought back to the House. The police have been calling for such legislation for over 10 years to help them conduct investigations, especially when it comes to the producers and consumers of child pornography. One of these bills ended up in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the other, in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Then, all of a sudden, they disappeared. And then the House was prorogued. I have had to ask why a million times in the House.
Not too long ago, I do not have the exact dates, they reappeared with new names. And we are still not working on them. The government should bring them forward because I would like to start working on them.
This government likes putting on a show in the name of public safety and too often shirks its fiduciary responsibilities with respect to our collective security. We saw this recently with its irresponsible attitude towards the firearms registry, which, despite everything the Conservatives are doing, works relatively well, in spite of their amnesties and their many attempts to secretly abolish it through private members' bills.
I would like to come back to the fact that police forces want another tool to protect our children and to catch producers and consumers of child pornography.
Since 1999, police forces across Canada have been calling for legislation that, within a certain framework—this is not a free-for-all—would require Internet service providers to disclose IP addresses, which identify their clients computers, without being forced to ask for authorization in court, since these authorizations would be given later.
An IP address is like 411, a telephone book where you can find a person's name, address and telephone number. It is the same for a computer. This makes it possible to take action and save lives in an urgent situation.
I am not the only one saying this. On April 22, when he testified before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime, Mr. Sullivan, who was appointed by this government, said:
...if I were the Prime Minister today the Internet bill would be my absolute priority; it would be number one in the justice reform areas.
Mr. Sullivan gave a good picture of the tragedy the absence of such legislation causes. He said:
The longer we delay these initiatives to give law enforcement the tools, the more kids are going to be abused. I think that makes everybody angry.
That is true. It makes no sense that we do not currently have any regulations like these for the Internet. I can give some examples. In less than 10 years, we have seen a huge increase in the amount of child pornography on the Internet. We have gone from thousands of images to millions of images and videos. Every single image and every single video shows children being abused. I spoke to investigators from the child sexual exploitation unit who told me that the youngest sexual abuse victim they had seen was a two-week-old baby. That is unbelievable.
Imagine my indignation when, rather than passing a bill that would actually make it possible to save lives by giving the police important tools, the members of the House prefer to talk about other things. I would ask my fellow members to excuse me for being emotional but I find this so mind-boggling that I cannot even believe it. I think that a way must be found to let the police do their work and to also protect our children.
It is important to understand, as the Bloc Québécois did during the consideration of the bill that was the original version of Bill S-2, that the government must question and change its behaviour for everyone's benefit. It must do so to protect public safety and preserve Canada's credibility in the eyes of the world, in the eyes of the international community.
It is rather paradoxical that I, a sovereignist, am saying this. I strongly believe that Quebec and Canada are sister countries. So, when things go wrong in Canada, they cannot help but go wrong for us as well.
Unfortunately, we are still in Canada. Sometimes extraordinary laws are passed that help us to grow; however, there are other laws that diminish us completely both as individuals and as a society.
It is important for the government to understand that human rights are more than mere words. Human rights are fundamental. This institution is based on human rights in general and on the rights of children. The government must show its good faith by ordering a public inquiry on the G20 in Toronto. I asked the Minister of Public Safety and the government several questions and, as I understand it, they have shut the door on this issue.
I have sat on five committees. People came from everywhere to testify. There were organizations as well as individuals who had been arrested and who are no longer facing charges. With what we are hearing, if I were the public safety minister, I would call a public inquiry for the sake of the credibility of Canada and its police. Right now, it is all just suspicion and allegations. People are not crazy. They go on the Internet and see things. Articles are published and we hear statements in committee. It is a disgrace. A public inquiry needs to be called to clean all of this up. If it finds nothing, so be it. At least everyone will be reassured and people will say that some incredible work was done. But that is not what is currently happening; there is nothing but suspicion.
More than 1,000 people were unfairly arrested at the G20, and a tiny minority were incarcerated after charges were laid. It was the largest number of arrests made at a single event in Canada. It brings back bad memories, such as the October crisis in 1970. We have to wonder. I hear my colleagues opposite, who are at a loss. It might help them understand if they realize that the link is human rights. Based on facts that are gradually coming to light, many observers feel it is increasingly probable that respect for human rights was not a concern for the infamous G8 and G20 integrated security unit, which was headed by the RCMP. Everyone is responsible, but no one is responsible. It is as though—