Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments. I will continue along the same lines, but I want to explore the aspects of this bill that we find particularly interesting a little more.
The Conservatives should re-read this bill a little more carefully. They want to create a Canada-wide sex offender registry, yet they want to abolish the firearms registry. It is a little—how shall I put it—strange. I will leave it up to the public to decide. They want to create something with one hand while destroying it with the other. In 10 years they will probably want to abolish the sex offender registry. That would not surprise me, but of course we would oppose that.
It is important that both registries be maintained. I do not plan to talk about the firearms registry for the 20 minutes I have here today. We see that issue as having been settled. It is important to maintain it, considering how effective it is. Yes, that is what I said: effective. I think effectiveness is what should guide our work on Bill S-2.
We had begun studying Bill C-34 during the last Parliament. In fact, Bill S-2 is an exact copy of Bill C-34. It is important to remind those watching us at home that when a session ends with prorogation or an election, all bills die on the order paper. One of those bills was Bill C-34. The government decided to fast-track it and therefore introduced it in the Senate, which is why it is now Bill S-2. It is before us here today to be passed.
I would like to say right away that we will vote in favour of this bill, which is very interesting, although it still needs more fine tuning. As part of its proceedings the committee heard from a number of witnesses and a great deal of work was done, but there is still more to do. I would like to focus on a few points that still need to be debated.
Let us look at what this bill entails. There are many laws that deal with sex offenders. Today there is the Sex Offender Information Registration Act. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the same as the DNA Identification Act or the Identification of Criminals Act. The latter requires an individual who is found guilty of or has pleaded guilty to an offence to provide his or her fingerprints and photos. We looked at this briefly yesterday and we will have the opportunity to study it in committee. That is the gist of the Identification of Criminals Act.
The DNA Identification Act is different. In cases of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault—I am not going to list every crime—this legislation requires the individual to provide a DNA sample, in other words saliva, a hair or a drop of blood. The DNA is analyzed and entered into a data bank. This data bank is consulted by those who need it to conduct a criminal investigation in order to track an individual, for example. It is this DNA data bank that helped solve a 34 year old murder case in Montreal a year ago.
But we are not talking about that today. We are talking about the Sex Offender Information Registration Act. It is very important to point out at this stage that this legislation implies that the individual has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty to the offence.
I will not name every offence, even though there are some in the new bill that I wonder about and which I will come back to in a few moments. I can name a few such as aggravated sexual assault, sexual contact, sexual exploitation, incest, exhibitionism, sexual assault with a weapon and so forth that are in section 490 and subsequent sections of the Criminal Code.
An individual is found guilty or pleads guilty to one of these charges and receives a sentence from the court, whatever that may be. The court could—and that is the key word here—order this individual to register. Pursuant to clause 5 of this bill, registration means that the individual must supply his or her name, address, date of birth, gender, military title, such as officer, and so on. Everything is there. The individual must re-register every year, and that is the problem, and it was noted. It works very well for monitoring an individual who was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to five years in prison and three years of probation. There is no need to look for the person so that he or she can register; it all works very well. It is once the probation is over that we start having problems. There are time periods set out in the legislation, which generally exceed the duration of the sentence, including probation.
But 80% to 90% of these individuals deliberately “forgot” to register. They did not care, because they were out of prison and had finished their probation. They perhaps had a job, and so we lost track of them. That is exactly what has happened many times in recent years, and Bill S-2 aims to put an end to these “lost” individuals, who disappear without a trace and suddenly reappear near a school or day care centre, or who find a job as a caregiver in a day care centre or school. We must absolutely put a stop to this.
It is easy now because the courts render a verdict and are obliged, in some cases, to issue an order to register. An easy example would be a case of aggravated assault or sexual assault with a weapon, when the courts would obviously issue an order. We have no problem with that. However, there are other crimes. In my day, they called it indecent assault, that is to say, a less serious sexual assault. It is harder in those cases because the word “assault” always implies violence, unfortunately, and we are trying to find the right words. There are some cases of sexual assault, for example touching at a party, where somebody gets drunk and unfortunately does something unacceptable. He is convicted and appears before a court. He could lose his job. He is charged with sexual assault, but as a summary conviction offence. Very often, the court passes sentence in this kind of case. Each case is obviously unique. I definitely would not want to generalize and would not want people to think I was generalizing about the kind of sentence the courts handed down. But in my career, I certainly saw a client of mine get this kind of sentence.
The court obviously did not issue an order to register because it was a moment of madness due to the overconsumption of alcohol and the person had never done anything wrong in his life. He is 55 years old and has a family. This is where the debate gets critical. We in the Bloc Québécois think that individualized sentences should be a priority. We believe it is very important that before a court passes sentence on someone, it should be careful to individualize the sentence.
When we start talking about individualizing sentences, this registry is directly involved. If we codify everything, we will have to take a very close look at all this in Bill S-2. In the schedule alone, there are four pages of designated offences. Included are offences of a sexual nature involving children, sexual touching, invitation to sexual touching, child pornography, luring by means of a computer—oops, I already start to have problems with that— and trespassing at night. When it comes to the latter offence, a question arises. If someone entered a house, was it for sexual activity or to commit the offence of theft? It is not clear. Throughout the list, there are offences that will have to be examined very carefully when the bill is studied in committee.
On the face of it, I think all of this will have to be studied very carefully, hence my questions about individualized sentences. We in the Bloc Québécois are convinced that if we want to rehabilitate people, it starts with individualized sentences that they accept. If sentences are handed down according to a formula and there is a single sentence including an order to register for both serious and less serious sexual assaults, there could well be a problem because the purpose of it all is distorted. The purpose of this bill—I agree and we agree—is very commendable. We think, just like our colleagues in the other three parties, that a registry is an absolute necessity.
I am having a little difficulty with the registry and I am going to come back to what my colleague said earlier. We think this should be a national registry. Who better than the RCMP to keep the registry, to know who is on file where? I will give an example of a case that has happened. My riding of Abitibi—Témiscamingue borders all of northwestern Ontario. So the only border we have is Lake Abitibi and Lake Timiskaming. On the other side, you are in Ontario. It has happened, unfortunately, that individuals who are on file only in Quebec or only in Ontario—we are not talking about the same individuals—cross over and commit offences on one side of the border or the other and the police forces are not aware of it.
We think it is important that there be one registry for all of Canada. As we know, people move around. We know that very often, unfortunately, sex offenders travel. They travel a lot and they move. Not just from one city to another, but from one province to another. They leave Quebec and go to New Brunswick or to Ontario or somewhere else. So we think there should be one registry. That is the first point that has to be considered.
The second point is automatic registration. There may be some difficulty in terms of the number of offences. It seems to us that there needs to be automatic registration. Consider the example of a person who is convicted.
Consider a case where the sentencing decision is very easy to make, a case of sexual assault with a weapon. It seems to us that this individual should be put on file and registered automatically. It cannot be left to the offender himself to give his name when he gets out of prison. That cannot be the case. We think it should be done automatically and there should be no hesitation.
For actual sex offences, the sentence does not present any problems for us, but the problem is all the fuzzy situations, as I said earlier. Consider a break-in at night, or luring by computer. We saw offences in the list that are somewhat difficult to analyze. For the moment, we will look at them very carefully, but we think it is important for it to be automatic registration.
As well, a problem arises in determining who may consult the registry. It also seems to us to be important that the registry be confidential and only people who are entitled have access to it. Obviously we are talking about police forces and investigators in certain cases. However, and I will say it straight, it seems to us to be essential to find resources, such as making sure there is adequate funding and making sure the laboratories and the sex offenders registry are able to absorb the anticipated increase in the number of DNA profiles to be analyzed, an increase caused by the change to the list of designated offences.
In other words, it is nice to have a piece of legislation, but if we are not able to implement it we will have problems, and that is what could happen with Bill S-2.
We are going to need appropriate tools. For the Bloc Québécois and for myself it is extremely important that police officers be able to act quickly. As my colleague mentioned earlier, when police officers receive a call from a school principal or from a kindergarten teacher, to the effect that a vehicle bearing such and such licence plate number has gone around the school three times, has stopped close to the entrance door, and so on, time is of the essence and police officers must know immediately whether they can make a quick check in the registry. They must be able to proceed very quickly, because the purpose of this registry is to identify potential sex offenders.
We must be able to have some control over an individual whose name is already in the registry, and for as long as he is registered. Otherwise, what is the point? So, we will have to quickly find ways to ensure that analyses are done and that the database is quickly established, because with the legislation now before us, prevention is obviously the goal. With regard to this bill, we should be able to engage in prevention.
Clause 40 provides that the registry can only be used when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a crime of a sexual nature was committed. Under the proposed change, Bill S-2 would extend the scope of section 16(2) by allowing the use of the registry for prevention purposes.
In conclusion, it is critical that, once the registry is established, it can be used for prevention purposes. We must also be careful with the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In other words, we must respect the person's privacy. However, if an individual's name is already in the registry, and if that individual is required to stay away from schools but happens to be in his vehicle close to a school, we have a problem. Police officers must be able to make a quick check. As for the other provisions, we will be pleased to answer questions. I am looking forward to this bill being referred to the committee, so that we can take a close look at it.