House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was consultants.

Topics

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, speaking of relevance, human rights have been trampled upon. The connection is very clear. Why was Bill S-2 created? Because there was balance, there were amendments and a better bill that should better reflect Canada was created.

At the G20, people were held for unacceptable periods of time in cages with constant bright lighting, with no beds and no covers despite the chilly air conditioning—

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, which has already been made. No matter how much the member massages the air around her bench, no matter how much she torques her voice, she has strayed off the topic, in my respectful view. I would ask her to please, out of respect for all the members in the House, get back to the issue in the bill. I do not mind listening to members stray a little, but I am here to debate the bill and the member has strayed way off topic, in my opinion.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I find I agree with the member for Scarborough—Rouge River. I will once again ask the member for Ahuntsic that she respect the rules of relevance in her final minute.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will. I understand that the member had no problem with his own colleague straying. It did not bother him when his colleague started talking about prisons and whatever, but I get it. He is partisan.

I also understand his position because his party does not want a public inquiry. That is why talking about the G20 makes the members so uncomfortable, especially the members from the Toronto region. They hope to sit on the other side. It would sure be nice for them to get Toronto.

About Bill S-2, I only have a minute, so I will wrap it up quickly. I want to say that when I look at all of this information in terms of values—

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is time for questions and comments. The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly talk to the bill and try to be as relevant as I can.

The information in the national registry that can be collected only to enable police services to investigate crimes they have reasonable grounds to suspect are of a sexual nature has been amended. We saw this through Bill C-34. In some of the comments during the committee work on the bill, it was pointed out that something was missing. However, the need for reasonable grounds has been removed from subparagraph 2(2)(c)(i) of the act. As a result, police may collect information for the purpose of preventing and investigating crimes of a sexual nature. During the examination of Bill C-34, no witnesses raised the possibility of any abuse of use resulting from these amendments.

Would the hon. member please comment if these new methods, for which we are casting a wide net in the usage of this registry, especially when it comes to peace officers, concern her, even though those member will pass the bill?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I already said in my speech, if my colleague had been listening, there is no doubt that with this new legislation—and my NDP colleague also mentioned this—registration will be automatic in certain cases. Let us be very clear: there will be a wide range of sex offences that can be included in this registry.

I find it ironic that my Liberal colleague is asking me a question. The Bloc Québécois and the NDP proposed—or at least we supported the NDP's proposal—an amendment that would allow for clear guidelines to be established regarding this issue. However, the member's party and his colleagues voted with the Conservatives. It would have been nice to be able to clarify this automatic registration. According to the witnesses, there is a risk that a great many names will be added to the registry until, unfortunately, it eventually becomes ineffective. Personally, I think we need to examine it a little closer later on. The bill is before us, with all of the amendments that were made. Personally, I think we need to examine the real impact it has later on, after it takes effect. Now if any amendments needed to be made, the time to do so was in committee. It was up to his party to do so, rather than voting against it when the time came.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, police forces have indicated that the present legislative framework of the national registry does not allow them to prevent crimes of a sexual nature. Response times in the investigation of sex crimes are of critical importance, as the member knows, especially in cases involving child abduction.

The following statistics illustrate the importance of a rapid response and have been mentioned by my colleague from B.C.: 44% of child victims are dead within one hour after abduction; 74% are dead three hours after abduction; and 91% are dead 24 hours after abduction.

Police prefer, where possible, to use the Ontario registry, since it can be used preventively and the fact that there is a substantial gap between the statistics on the national registry usage. For example, the national registry is used 165 times a year, whereas the Ontario registry is used 475 times a day. Clearly it is time for us to look at adopting the provisions of the Ontario registry, and that is in fact what we are doing.

I know the member referred to these statistics as well. Does she have any further comments on this?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I completely agree with him. There was a problem with the law and I believe that this bill solves it. Prevention is vital when it comes to child abduction, as he illustrated so well. Finding the child alive or even just finding the child is critical. That may happen within 24 hours. After that, according to police statistics and statements, the ability to find the child alive diminishes and may be almost nil.

Therefore, it is vital that the police be able to consult this registry for preventive purposes. The only thing we will have to eventually look at—which could very well be done in committee—is the effectiveness of the registry. How many names are in the registry? Are there abuses? Has the necessary money been provided for the registry to be effective?

One thing is clear: it is all very well to have the best possible law but, without resources, the registry cannot be effective and will not give results. It could be an exceptional tool when it comes to prevention and saving lives, provided that it is given the required resources. It is very important to assess its effectiveness. If we determine that it is more or less effective, we must determine why and provide the necessary resources for it to function properly. Assessing whether or not something is working does not mean that it is bad; it simply means that we want to improve it.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her work on the public safety committee. My question has to do with the statistics of abducted children being murdered: 44% of children are murdered within one hour of being abducted; 74% are dead within three hours; and 91% within 24 hours, all of which points to one inescapable conclusion. Police need immediate access to very accurate information. This leads to my question, which is on automatic registration.

Even though we did not hear from any real law enforcement officials who pushed the need for this, by pushing for automatic registration, we will be adding thousands more people into this database. This will force police to have to search those people in the critical one-hour and three-hour time periods, many of whom, it is uniformly regarded, should not be on the sex offender registry.

Could my hon. colleague comment on whether she thinks automatic registration will make it easier for police to get critical investigations under way that might save children's lives, or does she think automatic registration may impair the police in this regard and make our children less safe?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question. We had that very debate in committee. Witnesses told us clearly that the more names on the registry, the greater the risk it will not be as reliable. The problem is that hybrid offences or those more distantly related, such as exhibitionism, are subject to automatic registration. We will have to see whether this works.

Witnesses told us that we risk facing this problem, which is why it is important that we are able, after a year or two, to verify the effectiveness of such a registry with regard to this new automatic registration.

I cannot really answer the question because we will not know until we verify it. However, I agree with my colleague that witnesses told us that we run the risk of ending up in this situation. Some amendments have been proposed, but they have not been adopted. We are looking ahead. We will pass this bill and enforce it and then we will see what happens. We could assess and change things as needed.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada to speak in favour of Bill S-2, which would make many necessary and important changes to the sex offender information registry in this country. Bill S-2 is the reintroduction of Bill C-34 from the last session, including amendments made by committee.

New Democrats support the bill and the concept of reviewing this legislation. We also support hearing from various stakeholders on how to improve the registry, both to improve public safety and to respond to the legitimate concerns of the police forces that work with this registry every day.

Bill C-34 was strengthened by amendments, including New Democrat amendments, to require sex offenders to provide their vehicle information and swiftly report any changes in their personal or work information to the registry. It is important to note that the public safety committee worked well and co-operatively in reviewing this legislation at the time this bill was brought forward, which I will talk about in a moment.

Despite all party support and the co-operative approach by the public safety committee, it has taken a year and a half to get this bill to the stage it is at today. Bill C-34 was introduced in June 2009 under a different minister but it was killed by prorogation. The government, of course, controls the House of Commons' agenda and it did not call the bill for debate until now.

It is relatively concerning and regrettable when we so often see the politicization of crime as an issue in this country. As I always do in my speeches on crime, I call on all members of Parliament to work co-operatively, intelligently and factually so that we can take real measures to make our communities safer, instead of just preying on people's fear and pursuing policies that we know do not work, that we know do not make us safer and that we know are prohibitively expensive.

It is important for Canadians to know that this legislation, when it was introduced some years ago, contained a mandatory review clause so that, within two years of being introduced, the public safety committee, or whichever committee was responsible at the time, would be charged with reviewing how the legislation and the sex offender information registry worked in this country.

That is a wise provision to put into legislation and we should do more of it in this House of Commons. We should periodically review legislation to ensure it is achieving the results that we had hoped it would achieve but otherwise we may not know.

At the time the public safety committee was doing that review, we had heard from many witnesses, had gone through each major section of the bill in tedious detail and had caught a number of items we thought could be improved upon.

As the committee was writing its report to the Minister of Public Safety so he would have the benefit of its hearings and testimony from experts, police officers, government officials, people who work in the criminal justice arena from every angle and others, the government and the minister did not even wait for that report to come out on the mandatory statutory review. Instead, the government hastily and swiftly put this legislation together and introduced it into the House. In examining that fact, I think there is strong evidence that the government was playing politics at that time.

Why would the government not wait for the public safety committee to give its report and have the benefit of all of that study, testimony and co-operative agreement before it then drafted legislation, particularly when it was only weeks away? Why would the government do that other than to play politics with the crime issue?

The other reason that was regrettable is that, as one would expect with legislation drafted in haste for political purposes, the legislation had problems with it. I will give an example.

One of the things we found in the original legislation was that one of the critical pieces of information that a sex offender was not obligated to report to the registry was information about his vehicle, the make, model, colour, licence plate and registration number. As we all know, in some cases, sex offenders will utilize their vehicles as a way of luring children. They will go to playgrounds and try to lure children into their cars by offering them candy or luring them with a pet. This registry did not require sex offenders to report that information to the registry, both for cars they owned or leased. We caught that in committee and the New Democrats put forward an amendment to say that that was information that should be in the registry.

However, because the government and the minister did not wait for the report from our committee, they put legislation before the House that did not have that information in it. That just shows that not only is playing politics bad politically for this country, but it is bad from a public policy point of view and from a legislative point of view.

What is the sex offender registry? It is a national data bank that contains information on certain sex offenders who have been found guilty of designated offences under the Criminal Codes, such as sexual assault, child pornography, child luring and exhibitionism, or who have been declared not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder but, nevertheless, engage in those activities.

Pursuant to the Criminal Code, it is the Crown that had to initiate the registration process. If a court ruled that the offender should be registered in the national registry, an order was issued requiring the offender to report to a designated registration office within 15 days following the issuance of the order of the offender's release.

In April 2009, the public safety committee was informed that the national registry contained the names of over 19,000 sex offenders in Canada. The registry was originally designed to help police officers investigate crimes of a sexual nature by giving them access to reliable information of offenders found guilty of crimes of a sexual nature or, again, found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder.

The registry has always contained information essential to police investigations, such as the offender's address and telephone number, the nature of the offence committed, the age and gender of the victim, the victim's relationship to the attacker, any aliases that the offender used and a description of any distinguishing marks or tattoos the offender might have.

I want to pause and say that through some good work done by the committee, we added to that list and put in language to the effect that added the person's modus operandi or any distinguishing ways that the offender repeatedly carried out his or her offences. That was also helpful information to police officers because they could identify patterns very quickly when they were investigating a potential sexual offence, particularly against children.

It is important to note that the public never has had, and would not have through this legislation now, access to the national registry. Only police officers can access it and only when they are investigating a crime of a sexual nature or, as I will talk about in a minute, when they are working to prevent a crime of a sexual nature.

Querying the national registry allows police officers to identify possible suspects among sex offenders living in a particular area when a crime of a sexual nature is suspected of having been committed, and also as a process, it should be noted, to eliminate certain people from a list of suspects in order to move the investigation in a new direction.

During her appearance before the committee, chief superintendent, Kate Lines, of the Ontario Provincial Police said that the registry:

...saves a lot of time for investigators, who can now move in another direction […] Taking someone off the list rather than identifying them has great value when investigative time is of the essence.

With that point in mind, the crucial factor in designing the registry and proposing amendments should be ensuring that those who pose a danger to the public are registered, but also equally important, that those who pose no danger are not on the registry because that wastes police time investigating pointless leads in those crucial minutes when lives are at stake.

Here are some statistics that were presented by Ms. Lines to the committee that illustrate the importance of a rapid response in these cases, particularly in cases where there is a potential child abduction. When a child is abducted in this country, Ms. Lines told us that 44% were dead within 1 hour of the kidnapping, 74% were dead within 3 hours and 91% of those children were dead within 24 hours.

What we need to do as parliamentarians is design a properly functioning sex offender registry that can give police accurate and quick access to the registry, and anything that slows down the police in those crucial minutes following a potential or real abduction of a child should be rejected out of hand by parliamentarians.

That brings me to something in the bill that is of concern. It is the use of automatic registration for a long list of offences. I would respectfully argue with the House that is another issue where politics and ideology dominated public policy and fact.

When our committee was studying the bill, we heard evidence from a variety of witnesses and we had debate and dialogue about the very issue of whether we should be going to an automatic registration system in this country. What that means is that automatically, upon conviction of a list of sexual offences, the person's name is put into the sex offender registry. The status quo right now and before the bill is passed is that there is discretion in the system. Right now, an application must be made to the court upon conviction and then the court will or will not order that person to be put on the registry.

The evidence we heard at committee from prosecutors was that sometimes prosecutors forgot to put that application before the court upon obtaining a conviction for a sex offence. Our committee addressed that concern and the New Democrats put forward an amendment to address that concern. The amendment was that immediately upon conviction, without any action required by anybody, the application would be before the court for designation to the sex offender registry. The problem would have been solved.

However, we then wanted to preserve judicial and prosecutorial discretion to ensure that in the odd case where it was not appropriate for a person to be put on the sex offender registry, that the opportunity was there for the court and the prosecutor to decide. Why do we want to have that discretion? Because we do not want to put people on the sex offender registry who should not properly be there because. if we do, we will slow down police officers when they are investigating an important issue. Police officers may end up having to knock on doors, make calls or talk to suspects who really have nothing to do with this kind of offence. That slows them down and it puts children at risk in this country.

The other thing that is important to remember is that, upon conviction of a sex offence, the burden falls on the accused to show why he or she should not be put on the sex offender registry, and that burden is a very heavy one. The accused must convince the court that his or her interest in not being put on the registry outweighs the public's interest in ensuring their safety is protected.

This is what we heard from a government witness about that issue. Mr. Douglas Hoover, who is counsel for the criminal law policy section of the Department of Justice, said:

We've had a number of Court of Appeal decisions on “grossly disproportionate” to confirm that the onus has to be on the offender. He has to step up. He has to prove this to the court's satisfaction. This is a very strict test. I think the Court of Appeal in an Ontario case used the term “in the rarest of circumstances”, which is similar to the language in a Nova Scotia Court of Appeal decision on the DNA.

So while there were some early and I guess interesting decisions in the lower courts, we're confident that right now it is working fully as intended,

That was the kind of evidence that our committee heard and the kind of evidence that I am proud to say our committee listened to when we were busy writing our report and when we were telling minister that we did not want to go to a full automatic registration system. We wanted to fix the problem of prosecutors forgetting or neglecting to make the application, which we did, and we wanted to ensure it would be very difficult for an offender to prove to the court that he or she should not be put on the sex offender registry. We could then preserve the rare circumstance where someone should not be put on the registry. We did not want this because we felt sorry for the person convicted of a sex offence. We wanted this because we wanted to ensure the registry was effective and that police officers would not have any extra burden on them when they needed full speed to investigate crimes of a sexual nature.

What happened? The government did not wait for the report and introduces this bill and puts in automatic registration.

Reference has been made to the Ontario model. The Ontario model does have an automatic registration system, but there is an important difference. The list of offences for which a person convicted in Ontario of a sexual offence who gets automatically registered in the provincial sex offender registry is smaller than the one in this bill. This bill has a longer list of sex offences that, quite conceivably, may result in someone being put on the sex offender registry who should not be there.

I want to pause for a moment on the constitutional question. We heard evidence before our committee as well that automatic registration was currently being argued before the courts as to whether it was constitutional. This issue has not been fully settled by the Supreme Court of Canada. In his testimony, Mr. Hoover of the Department of Justice said that if we went automatic, the constitutionality would be an issue. Therefore, that is another reason to be concerned about automatic registration.

I want to also comment on the addition of the word “prevention”. Under the current legislation, police departments can access the registry only when they believe a crime has been committed which they reasonably suspect is of a sexual nature.

We heard evidence that it was too tight of a test. Police departments need to have access quicker and they cannot be held down when they want to access the registry. The New Democrats listened to them, we heard that complaint and we acted. It is important that we widen the scope so police departments can access the registry when they need to and not be hamstrung by very tight tests of whether they can get access to the registry.

The New Democrats also put a really reasonable proposal to have a review of this in the next couple of years to see how it was working. By allowing police officers now to search the registry when they might want to prevent a crime is a good thing, because we want the police to be proactive, but we are also not exactly sure how that will be manifested in practice.

Just like it was a good idea to have the review of the sex offender registry by the public safety committee, where we caught many things that needed to be improved, we thought we wanted to do the same thing with this. When it comes to dealing with sex offences, particularly against children, we can take no chances. Parliament should be vigilant at all times, to be constantly reviewing legislation to ensure it is nimble, accurate and effective.

What happened with that amendment? It is not in the legislation to review the bill in two years time, and that is regrettable.

I want to conclude by commenting about what we need to do for victims of sexual abuse. It is a well known fact that a very high percentage of sex offenders were themselves sexually abused as children, not all of them, but a high percentage. Earlier this year Steve Sullivan, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime at the time, testified at our public safety committee. He spoke about the need for the government to fund child advocacy centres in major cities across the country. He said that for two years in a row he had recommended that the government put a very nominal amount, several million dollars, to fund these child advocacy centres so children who were victims of sexual abuse would have a place to go to get immediate help.

Not only is it important to help those children, but it is a proactive way that we can deal very quickly with the pain and suffering of victims of sexual offences so as to maybe interrupt that process where they themselves might grow older and have deviant sexual practices themselves. Therefore, it is good for public safety.

The government ignored those proposals two years in a row, but I am happy to hear that recently the government indicated it might be willing to fund such advocacy centres. I applaud the government for any move it takes on that side. It will have the full support of the New Democrats for every $1 it puts in to help victims of sexual offences, particularly children.

We support the bill. We have some reservations about automatic registration and about the way the access to the registry in terms of prevention will work out. However, the New Democrats will support the legislation because, at the end of the day, we want to ensure that victims are protected as much as possible.

I urge all parliamentarians to support the New Democrats proposal to come back to this issue in two or three years time so we can review how the bill has worked and see how we can improve it yet again. Once again, we want to ensure we get the legislation right.

The federal registry is less than 10 years old. It is very important that we continue to fine tune it to ensure it achieves the objectives that all parliamentarians and all Canadians want to see, which is to keep our communities safer and to cut down on sex offences in our country.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would be very interested in a finding out from the member what the government's timeline and time frame would be on the registry and how long it would be before we could see some real benefits coming out of the legislation.

The fact is we are looking at reviewing the process in a two-year time frame and that is good. Especially with the ground shifting and changing constantly, it is important that we take another look at this right now. However, once again I would like to get his views on how quickly the government will have the legislation implemented.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear that there is no proposal at this point to review the legislation in any time period. New Democrats are urging that this be done, but is not currently in the legislation.

The question of when the legislation will be in practice and working is a good one. A lot of that depends upon resources.

When we studied Bill S-2 at committee, we heard that it lacked the necessary resources to implement a registry. We heard testimony about the Ontario sex offender registry. Police and victims groups talked about that registry as a model. We heard that the national registry had an operating budget of between $400,000 and $600,000 a year. By comparison, the budget for the operation and centralized management of the Ontario model is close to $4 million per year, not including the expenses incurred by local police departments.

The bill would do nothing to increase resources for the sex offender registry and there is concern that it may download the burden onto already overstretched police forces, which is a continuing problem in our country. We hear from municipalities, in particularly rural areas, that the federal government keeps downloading problems to them without the resources to deal with them.

To answer my colleague's question, a lot of the effectiveness of the bill will depend upon whether the government puts the resources into making it successful, which I urge it to do.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that was my point. The government gets the benefit for passing the legislation but, at the end of the day, it is essentially offloading a considerable portion of the implementation costs to the provinces. We have seen that with some of the other legislation, too. It is fine for the government to introduce its series of crime legislation, but, at the end of the day, it does so without providing full costing and it is downloading a lot of the cost to the provinces. That is unfair to Canadians. On the one hand, they support the legislation, but they do it in a vacuum because they have not been told what the final costs will be.

Once Canadians can attach a cost item to that legislation, then they would have a better idea of how to balance the two and maybe they would not be as excited about the legislation if they realized what the total costs would be.

Once again, we see the government doing the right thing in introducing the legislation and passing it to get the immediate pluses, but then the downstream of it is the funding of the legislation is being passed off to somebody else.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly right. Just last week I met with representatives from the Canadian Federation of Municipalities. These are mayors and council members who represent every conceivable municipality and rural area in our country. I met people in my office from New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan. Their message was uniform. They said that their police forces and resources were stretched to the limit. They all talked about the federal government downloading obligations on to their local police forces without the necessary resources to fund them.

I fear we are going to widen the opportunity for police forces to search the sex offender registry. Our court system is going to put many more people on the registry, but it is going to fall to these cities and rural areas to actually implement it.

What happens if there is a phone call to a force in rural Ontario or Saskatchewan about an alleged child abduction? Let us fast forward to a year from now. There may be thousands more names in the registry for the police forces to search, but they will not have the personnel to do it.

It is not enough to play politics with a crime issue. It is not enough to make ourselves look tough, like the government likes to do on crime. What matters is whether we put the bucks behind the obligations.

There is no money in Bill S-2. The minister has not said that he will give federal money to rural areas and municipalities in order to beef up their police forces so they can make use of this new information. Make no mistake, until that is done, the sex offender registry will not be fully utilized and it will not be fully effective until that happens.

Talk is cheap. I call upon the government to not only make these changes, but to put money where its mouth is. The Conservatives talk tough on crime, let us see them spend tough on crime. Let us see them put dollars toward crime. I challenge the government to tell the House how much money it will give to rural and municipal governments to help them carry out these and other obligations that it wants them to carry out.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether the committee had the opportunity, through its witness process, to look into these costs. Did any members of committee ask the government to produce financial statistics as to what sort of resourcing it would provide for the legislation?

It is interesting to note that the Ontario registry is being funded to the tune of $4 million a year, whereas the national registry is being funded with between $400,000 and $600,000. That is a big difference. The provincial registry is being accessed in a day a huge number of times more than the national registry is being accessed in a year.

Did the committee make any sort of effort to ascertain the full cost of implementing the legislation?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to that question is no. The committee did not have that information satisfactorily before the committee, nor did the minister or the government provide that information. What we do know and what we did discover from a variety of sources is that the resources for an expanded sex offender information registry have not been provided by the government. One does not have to be a public policy expert to know if that changes are made to the registry that will result in thousands and thousands more names and information being added to the registry, it will need more resources. We would need more people to input that data. We will need more police officers who will actually investigate that data when there is a potential sex offence being committed.

We should remember that the registry is being expanded in two different ways. The access to the registry is being expanded by liberalizing the test as to when police can access it, and we are adding many more people by putting automatic registration of everybody convicted of a broad range of offences into the registry.

Again, like a lot of things with the government, it comes out with the rhetoric but does not put the money there and does not tell Canadians how much money it is going to cost either. We have no idea at this point. The committee has no idea. There has been no evidence by the minister or by any member of the government that says that the effect of these changes is going to cost blank amount of millions of dollars, but what is predictable, is absolutely going to be the case, is that these changes will require millions and millions of dollars coming from somewhere.

The federal government criticizes the Liberals for downloading obligations onto the provinces in the nineties, criticism that is richly deserved because the Liberals did download billions of dollars of costs to the provinces, which caused harm to the provinces to this day. I hope the government is not hypocritical about it, because it is doing the same thing if it transfers these kinds of obligations onto local police forces across the country but then does not provide municipalities and rural areas with the funds to actually carry out those duties.

Once again, if the government is serious about cracking down on sex offenders, if it is serious about improving the sex offender information registry, it must give municipalities and rural areas the funding they require to carry out the very important work that is called for by this legislation. I challenge the Conservatives to do it. The New Democrats will continue to push them until they—

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to engage in debate on Bill S-2 at the third reading stage. This is actually the first time I have had a chance to look through the bill at any depth or precision.

I have to say at the outset that my party and I support the bill both in principle and in much of its detail. As happens so often here, there may be minor details in a bill that are not to the liking of everyone, but we tend to give our bills marks out of 100 and anything that gets more than 50% or 60% seems to fly. However, in this case I too have some remarks on the bill, out of sensitivity for the area that we are legislating in.

The principle and thesis are good. We in the Liberal Party believe that more robust state intervention in documenting those who have committed sexual offences in the past would lead to improved police enforcement and greater protection for the general public. It is not just for the protection of children but for the general public.

I can accept that because, with 20/20 hindsight, there have been many public incidents across the country where sexual offenders have moved around and continued to commit offences without detection or at least without being apprehended. Most think that if these people had been properly documented, it would have allowed police to access records that might have allowed them to connect the dots, keep closer tabs and prevent offences of this nature.

One of the most important principles is the one that says inclusion of an offender on the sex offender registry should be based on risk to the public. It should not be seen as punishment. Punishment of a convicted sex offender should be handled by the court and the sentence should be appropriate. I think we all agree on that. However, the sex offender registry is intended to identify risk.

The approach of the government, as other colleagues have pointed out, raises the possibility of over-inclusion, of unnecessarily putting too many individuals in the registry, which may affect the workability of the registry. It essentially has to do with the efficiency with which the registry will be used to protect the public. I will come back to that later in my remarks.

The bill generally focuses on four classes of persons. Most of them, of course, are not controversial. The first one is persons convicted of offences of a sexual nature. The bill goes a long distance toward broadening the scope of those offences, and so there are a lot of different types of persons and offences now being included.

A second category is those who are not found guilty of a criminal offence of this nature but found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder. In that case, there is no conviction but there is an offence. I will come back to that later as well. The third category is under the National Defence Act, for armed forces members who are not governed by the Criminal Code directly but by the National Defence Act.

The last category is individuals who come back to Canada having been convicted of this type of offence internationally. In most cases, they will have applied and been transferred back to Canada under an existing arrangement. The offence, conviction and facts are known, and there is a need to include some of those individuals in Canada's sex offender registry.

As I mentioned, this is not just a registry that lists a name, address and telephone number. The registry actually includes DNA, and here we are getting pretty much definitive identification. People who are required by court order to be included in the registry, or now in this legislation, virtually automatically, have to provide appropriate DNA samples, and that is recorded.

The bottom line, just in the overview of this bill, is that it is intended to enhance public safety and the existing procedures both for the appropriate inclusion of individuals, although the procedures in the bill are virtually automatic and do not directly address the issue of risk, and for access to the registry by police or appropriate police officers in Canada.

In reading the bill, I have to say I was rather struck by clause 2 of the bill. I am hoping I will have a chance to ask a question of a government member here later. Clause 2, for reasons that have not been explained, does not have anything to do with the sex offender registry, and it actually changes subsection 173(2) of the Criminal Code.

I know some of us will be uncomfortable when I go into this, but currently, subsection 173(2) criminalizes the exposing of genitals to a person who is under the age of 14. That is what the section was. I do not think it was ever explained, and in fact I took a look at the summary of the bill and it does not even mention this. This bill now criminalizes that same act for persons under 16. At first blush, one might ask what the difference is between 14 and 16 for exposing genitals, and I have to say—

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

This might be a good spot to interrupt the member's speech. The hon. member will have approximately 13 minutes to conclude his remarks, but it being 2 o'clock, we will move on to statements by members.

Interprovincial Shipment of WineStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is time to bring Canada's wine laws into the 21st century. From coast to coast we can boast of award-winning wineries, many of them in the Okanagan Valley of my home province of beautiful British Columbia.

Unfortunately, the current law makes it illegal for Canadian vintners to ship that wine directly to consumers out of province. It is hard to believe. That is why I have tabled Motion No. 601 which supports amending the act. With the help of the Minister of Agriculture, as well as the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, and our Conservative wine caucus, we are working to find a way to allow for a personal exemption for direct consumer purchasing.

Grassroots support is ramping up with a writing campaign, and a new website called FreeMyGrapes.ca. I encourage everyone to visit FreeMyGrapes.ca.

Let us relax this archaic 1928 interprovincial trade barrier and create a win-win for Canadian wine producers and Canadian consumers.

Cheers.

Comments by Member-Elect for VaughanStatements By Members

December 7th, 2010 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, barely four days after his narrow election win, MP-elect Julian Fantino crossed the line by using an offensive analogy—

Comments by Member-Elect for VaughanStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I would just remind the hon. member that we are not to use proper names, but ridings or titles.

Comments by Member-Elect for VaughanStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

—that compared the Liberal Party of Canada, a democratic political party in Canada, to the Nazi regime.

This objectionable analogy has no place in Canadian politics and should be strictly off limits. It is a term of gross slander, and to toss it around as a political epithet both trivializes a terrible moment in history and insults the memory of its real victims.

The poor judgment exhibited by these outrageous remarks demonstrates why the member-elect for Vaughan was largely kept hidden from view during the recent byelection campaign. Unfortunately, like the Prime Minister, the member-elect for Vaughan thinks that he makes the rules and is used to getting his way.

I call on the Prime Minister to publicly denounce the unacceptable comments by the member-elect for Vaughan.