This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Question No. 229Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Regarding the Integrated Relocation Program (IRP) and the reimbursement of excess broker fees paid by federal employees: (a) how many National Defence employees were reimbursed by the Royal LePage Relocation Services contractor; (b) what is the total dollar amount that was reimbursed; and (c) what methods were used to contact employees who were likely to have overpaid broker fees to the contractor or third-party IRP suppliers?

Question No. 229Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the department has interpreted “excess broker fees” to mean property management fees that were paid by Canadian Forces members which should have been borne by the contractor, Royal Lepage Relocation Services.

In response to a) There were 151 Canadian Forces personnel identified as being eligible for reimbursement of property management fees. Almost all have been reimbursed for their expenditures. Fewer than ten individuals have not received their reimbursement due to changes to addresses and phone numbers. The department is still working to contact them.

In response to b) The approximate dollar value reimbursed by Royal Lepage Relocation Services was $137,000.

In response to c) A general message was sent to all Canadian Forces personnel, inviting those who had paid property management fees to self-identify. A review of files was also undertaken to determine and contact eligible personnel.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

June 15th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 228 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 228Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

With regard to the Integrated Relocation Program (IRP), the contract for which was awarded to Royal Lepage Relocation Services since 1999 and Brookfield Relocation Services in 2009: (a) how many quarterly reports has the contractor submitted to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the Department of Public Works and Government Services (PWGSC) or any other department since the program was first implemented in 1999; (b) for each of the following periods, did the contractor produce a quarterly report detailing the breakdown of real estate transactions for each agency, were the reports submitted to the Treasury Board Secretariat, PWGSC or any other department, and what is the number of relocations of federal public servants, (i) April 1, 1999 to June 30, 1999, (ii) July 1, 1999 to September 30, 1999, (iii) October 1, 1999 to December 31, 1999, (iv) January 1, 2000 to March 31, 2000, (v) April 1, 2000 to June 30, 2000, (vi) July 1, 2000 to September 30, 2000, (vii) October 1, 2000 to December 31, 2000, (viii) January 1, 2001 to March 31, 2001, (ix) April 1, 2001 to June 30, 2001, (x) July 1, 2001 to September 30, 2001, (xi) October 1, 2001 to December 31, 2001, (xii) January 1, 2002 to March 31, 2002, (xiii) April 1, 2002 to June 30, 2002, (xiv) July 1, 2002 to September 30, 2002, (xv) October 1, 2002 to December 31, 2002, (xvi) January 1, 2003 to March 31, 2003, (xvii) April 1, 2003 to June 30, 2003, (xviii) July 1, 2003 to September 30, 2003, (xix) October 1, 2003 to December 31, 2003, (xx) January 1, 2004 to March 31, 2004, (xxi) April 1, 2004 to June 30, 2004, (xxii) July 1, 2004 to September 30, 2004, (xxiii) October 1, 2004 to December 31, 2004, (xxiv) January 1, 2005 to March 31, 2005, (xxv) April 1, 2005 to June 30, 2005, (xxvi) July 1, 2005 to September 30, 2005, (xxvii) October 1, 2005 to December 31, 2005, (xxviii) January 1, 2006 to March 31, 2006, (xxix) April 1, 2006 to June 30, 2006, (xxx) July 1, 2006 to September 30, 2006, (xxxi) October 1, 2006 to December 31, 2006, (xxxii) January 1, 2007 to March 31, 2007, (xxxiii) April 1, 2007 to June 30, 2007, (xxxiv) July 1, 2007 to September 30, 2007, (xxxv) October 1, 2007 to December 31, 2007, (xxxvi) January 1, 2008 to March 31, 2008, (xxxvii) April 1, 2008 to June 30, 2008, (xxxviii) July 1, 2008 to September 30, 2008, (xxxix) October 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008, (xl) January 1, 2009 to March 31, 2009, (xli) April 1, 2009 to June 30, 2009, (xlii) July 1, 2009 to September 30, 2009, (xliii) October 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009, (xliv) January 1, 2010 to March 31, 2010; (c) on what dates did the Treasury Board Secretariat, PWGSC, the Department of National Defence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police conduct verifications to ensure that the contractor had distributed the “federal public servants to be relocated” equally among all the third-party suppliers; (d) which agencies are on the list of third-party suppliers participating in the IRP and what is the breakdown of real estate transactions for each agency; (e) what is the rate for real estate commissions; (f) what is the name of the departmental official or project officer who manages the files submitted by the contractor and how can this person be reached; (g) on what dates were the audits and verifications of the IRP carried out, were they carried out internally or externally, and who is the person or contractor responsible for carrying them out; (h) what information is contained in a standard invoice submitted by the contractor and under what headings would details on additional costs be found; (i) who within PWGSC is responsible for checking each invoice submitted by the contractor and monitoring the contract to ensure the contractor complies with all clauses therein; and (j) how much has the government saved to date through the IRP and how is this amount calculated?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by eight minutes.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege in response to your ruling of April 27 regarding the decision and the question of privilege raised by me with respect to making available to members of Parliament and to Parliament itself the unredacted documents related to the Afghan detainee issue.

I wish to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that despite extensive negotiations and discussions over the last several weeks, as you suggested, there is no resolution to this issue with respect to the four parties sitting in the House. I wish to advise you of the concerns that we in the NDP have raised throughout these proceedings and wish to put on the record today.

Fundamental to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, was that parliamentarians would have access to unredacted documents as requested by the House order in December of last year. Three of the parties in the House have decided to reach an agreement for a process, but that does not include access to unredacted documents as outlined in your ruling.

There is a class of documents, which the government has the ultimate and unilateral right to indicate as being matters of cabinet confidence or matters of solicitor-client privilege. These documents will not go to the committee that has been proposed, so the committee will not see them. These documents will go to a panel of jurists who will decide whether or not they are indeed matters that are considered cabinet confidence or solicitor-client privilege, in which case they will not be seen by parliamentarians.

Fundamental to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, is that Parliament, in exercising its right to hold government to account, would have access to these documents. Fundamental to holding government to account is the ability to answer the questions: What did the government know? What advice did it receive? What decisions did it take in response to that advice and information? None of that information will be available to members of Parliament.

The process that appears to have been agreed to is that one member of Parliament from each party would sit on the committee, but the second fundamental problem with the process is that the committee is designated as that of a committee external to the House of Commons. In other words, it would not be a House of Commons committee charged with holding the government to account. The people on the committee are members of Parliament, but the committee is designated as being external to Parliament. It would not report to Parliament. It would not report to you as Speaker. It is not in keeping with the traditions of Parliament itself of holding the government to account.

This committee will not be able to make reports on any substantive matters that obviously holding the government to account involves and will really be a vetting committee that cannot reach any conclusions whatsoever. It will merely report on procedures and any methodology that it wishes, but there is no mechanism for reporting to Parliament or to you as Speaker.

This disrespects Parliament. It disrespects the role of parliamentarians in holding the government to account by instead substituting a judicial role to look at the documents and make decisions about them.

We advocated during this process that there was a need, if we were going to have a proper process, for a committee of parliamentarians to have access to staff. It is a very simple matter. We are talking about thousands of documents, some have suggested even hundreds of thousands of documents. But the constraints put on this process include: no support from any staff; no ability to bring any notes into any meeting; no ability to bring any notes out of any meeting; or as we suggested, experts in this area, such as special advocates who are already designated with the secret classification and are experts in arguing before courts, particularly the Federal Court, as to the whole process of balancing the need for disclosure with the claims of confidentiality.

In fact, there is no balancing process in the process that has been set out. It is only a question of whether a matter is a national security issue or not, not whether it should be disclosed despite the fact that it may have national security implications.

We see as well in the issue of cabinet confidence or the solicitor-client privilege category that once again, the decision is not whether something ought to be disclosed, despite the fact that it may come under that category, but the issue is whether it is or is not a matter of cabinet confidence. If it is a matter of cabinet confidence, it will not be disclosed even for parliamentarians who are given the job of playing the role of Parliament in holding the government to account which they will not be able to do.

We had certain other issues with respect to how the committee was established. We also had issues that were matters of procedure that were very important to us. However, the fundamentals are what I have stated. What we see in fact is a group of parties that has reached this agreement and is looking desperately for an agreement, even though it significantly interferes and undermines the historic ruling by you on April 27.

This ad hoc committee, even though it is external to the House of Commons, will be covered by the in camera rules and will not be allowed to discuss what goes on nor complain about matters of substance. We find this to be unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, in light of all of the above, and the fact that we do not have an agreement as you provided for in your ruling of April 27, I am asking you today to indicate to us, as you said in your ruling, “if in two weeks' time, the matter is still not resolved, the Chair will return to make a statement on the motion that will be allowed in the circumstances”.

In these circumstances where there is no agreement or resolution by the four parties in this House, I am prepared to move a motion that would incorporate the matters that were proposed by us, in keeping with your ruling, which is a different memorandum of understanding than the one which I think you will see later today which provides for the protection of national security, provides for ensuring confidentiality, provides for an oath to be taken by members of the committee, provides for proper reporting to you as Speaker and to the House, and provides for access to all unredacted documents.

These are missing from the agreement that appears to have been entered into by the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Bloc, but we are not prepared to enter into such an agreement. We are not prepared to ask our leader to sign such an agreement. We would like you to advise what motion you would consider appropriate in these circumstances.

As I have indicated, I am prepared to move a motion that would set out a memorandum of understanding or a process whereby the committee of parliamentarians could have access to these documents with the kind of support that is required and with the full access to the documents as outlined in your historic ruling to Parliament, which we believe has been significantly watered down by the government and agreed to by two of the opposition parties.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief in respect of the fact that I had already risen earlier this morning during ministerial statements to announce to colleagues in all parties that we have reached agreement with three of the four parties represented in the House of Commons.

I want to congratulate the members of the negotiating teams from the official opposition, the Liberal Party of Canada and the Bloc Québécois for some tough negotiations that took place over the past weeks. As I noted during my brief ministerial statement, there were some 16 meetings, most of them at least an hour in length. We spent a considerable amount of time.

I made the comment at this morning's meeting that indeed my sense was, as is the case in most negotiations among hon. members and political parties in trying to resolve outstanding differences of opinion, that in the end the agreement reached reflects the fact that everyone there had to put some water in their wine, as they say, about these types of negotiations. I felt, at least on the part of the parties that arrived at the decision, that they were comfortable in recommending to their leaders that they sign the agreement that will get this committee of members of Parliament up and operating, as the official opposition House leader said, as soon as possible to address these outstanding issues. That is good news.

As I said, it reflects not only the intent and substance of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but also the needs of the government to ensure that the issues of national security, international relationships with our allies and the protection of information that could be damaging and indeed put members of our Canadian Forces at risk, are respected. It respects all of those things. That is why those negotiations were lengthy and involved, but they were always conducted with the utmost respect among all of the parties.

Mr. Speaker, in addressing this question of privilege, I would draw to your attention that it was certainly the government's hope all along and that of the people we had at the table that we could arrive at an agreement that would encompass all members of Parliament and all political parties in this chamber. Unfortunately, that has not proven to be the case.

However, three parties have indicated that their leaders have agreed to sign this agreement and get the process under way. It respects your ruling and represents the vast majority of members of Parliament in this chamber. As I said, it is unfortunate and I am disappointed that we could not include the New Democratic Party, but that was its choice.

I would point out as well that following this morning's meeting, we were apprised that the New Democratic Party, as it has done once or twice in the past, had already called ahead of time to organize a scrum before the meeting was even adjourned. It really calls into question whether the NDP members were negotiating in good faith this morning. I also find it unfortunate that the NDP chose to go down that path.

I do believe that the members of Parliament who will be tasked with working their way through all of the thousands of pages of documents, both redacted and unredacted, in being able to see all of the documents and the information that will be available, are going to get at the truth despite what the NDP is saying. That is certainly the hope of the government and, we believe, that of the ad hoc committee of members of Parliament.

The member for the New Democratic Party indicated that there would not be a provision for reporting. This was another instance and there were so many I could not possibly remember over the course of the 16 meetings how many different issues were dealt with from each of the parties bringing forward at times conflicting positions on different clauses of the agreement. However, this particular provision had been debated and discussed for some time. There is provision in the memorandum of understanding that will guide the work of this ad hoc MP committee, and the committee does have the means to make interim reports, if indeed that is the case.

Those reports will be as to whether the committee thinks the process is proceeding and whether there is any obstruction, that type of thing. Obviously those reports will have to respect the oath that each of those members of Parliament will take to ensure the security and, as I said earlier, the safety of our men and women in uniform and to ensure that information that must remain secure does in fact remain secure.

The members of the committee will see it. They will have the opportunity to report as to whether they believe they are getting all the relevant information as per your ruling, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I trust that you will understand, as you clearly do, that following these very extensive time-consuming negotiations, we have arrived at an agreement between ourselves, as the Government of Canada, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois. We have arrived at this place in our nation's history.

I think what we are doing is precedent setting, and we were all seized with that. We were certainly constantly reminded, as we worked through these negotiations, of your suggestion that the Parliament of Canada has been confronted with this type of dilemma in the past and has always managed to work through it. That is what we endeavoured to do, and I think that is what we arrived at this morning in the agreement of the three parties.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that in considering this question of privilege you will take all of these points into account, as I am sure you will.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to address the issue that is now before the House. Once again, it is the topic of the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan and the need for Parliament and Canadians to have the appropriate information so that in grappling with this issue, the government can be held to account.

These are, of course, very tough and serious issues of enormous gravity. They have to do with Canada's reputation in the world. They also have to do with the proper functioning of our parliamentary democratic system. The government maintained for a considerable length of time that the government, and only the government, would make a decision about the availability of documents and the use of information.

That was a position maintained by the government not just for a matter of weeks or months, but indeed, for a matter of years. The government would make available to the public or Parliament only that information it felt inclined to make available. We objected to that position. We thought it was unilateral, arbitrary, and in fact, contrary to parliamentary tradition.

The embodiment of that objection on the part of the official opposition came last December in a motion put before the House by the hon. member for Vancouver South, who is our defence critic. In that motion he enumerated a long list of documents that he thought, and we thought, were relevant to the issue of the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan. We called upon the government to produce that information.

The government said no. In the course of the debate, its position was that it would maintain unilateral control over that information. The House decided otherwise. That motion put forward by the member for Vancouver South was, in fact, adopted. All of us then waited anxiously for the production of the information. We waited through the rest of December, January, February, March, and into April.

Mr. Speaker, in April, you entertained a number of questions of privilege about whether the government had in any way honoured the order the House had made in December. That series of questions of privilege resulted in your ruling on April 27, when, in very eloquent terms, you indicated that Parliament did have the right to information.

You indicated, at the same time, that there were sensitivities around issues related to national defence, national security, and international relations and that the House leaders and parliamentary critics should get together and arrive at a process to make information available to members of Parliament and Canadians for the purpose of holding the government to account and to do so in a way that would not imperil national security, national defence, or international relations.

Accordingly, for some weeks now, since April 27, MPs have been at work on the task of finding the mechanism to make the information available in such a way that national security and other matters will not be improperly violated. We have arrived at a process. That process involves the government, the official opposition, and the Bloc Québécois opposition.

The process provides for a committee of members of Parliament to be established, a small committee, made up of one member from each party involved in this process. An alternate can stand in for that one member when circumstances warrant. That small group of MPs will be provided with all of the documents mentioned in the motion by the member for Vancouver South.

They will see all of those documents in both redacted and unredacted form. Those members of Parliament will then make a decision as to whether there is information in the documents that is relevant to the question MPs are pursuing that has to do with Afghan detainees, and whether that information is necessary for the purpose of holding the government to account.

If the MPs decide that the information is relevant and necessary, they can call upon a panel of expert arbiters, people of the most superior calibre and professionalism, eminent jurists who have expertise in these matters, to determine how the relevant and necessary information will be put into the public domain, for the purpose of holding the government to account, without treading on matters of national security. It may be some system of redaction. It may be written summaries of the materials. We sift out what is relevant and leave behind the issues that bear upon national security. It will be up to that panel of experts to decide on the methodology.

What is critical is that the panel of experts is not a government entity. It is not an arm of the government. It is to be selected by all of the parties participating in this process. In other words, all of the parties have a veto over who will be on the panel of arbiters.

In the first instance, the government has surrendered its unilateral authority to say what is relevant and what is necessary to the ad hoc committee of MPs. If there is an issue of national security involved, the decision will not be made by the government unilaterally and arbitrarily. It will be made by the panel of arbiters. The parties involved in this agreement will select the panel of arbiters together so that it is not unilaterally or arbitrarily an arm of the government.

If there are matters about which the government makes the claim that there is some cabinet confidence involved or some solicitor-client privilege involved, it is free to make that claim. However, it is not free to make the decision about whether there is a question of solicitor-client privilege or cabinet confidence involved. Again, the panel of arbiters will decide that. Only if the panel of arbiters agrees will the government's position with respect to those two matters be sustained.

Instead of unilateral, absolute control over information, which was the government's original position, the state of play today is that Parliament has taken charge of the process. I believe that it has taken charge of the process in a manner that is consistent with the order made by the House last December 10. It is consistent with the ruling you made, Mr. Speaker, in very eloquent terms, on April 27. It is consistent with the agreement in principle we reported back to the House on May 14. We have now translated that agreement in principle into a memorandum of understanding.

Let me make two further points. We expect the government to proceed to implement this memorandum of understanding in good faith. If it does, and that will be our expectation, and our members will be vigilant to ensure that this is, in fact, the case, then the process, as has been contemplated by the discussions over the last several weeks, will go forward successfully.

If there is any reason to believe that there is some lack of good faith, if the government is not producing the information in a timely way, if it is making extravagant claims about solicitor-client privilege or cabinet confidence and so forth, then the ad hoc committee of MPs has two further recourses.

First, if the government's behaviour seems to be inconsistent with the spirit of this agreement, the committee can report that lack of good faith publicly to you, to the House, and to the Canadian people.

The terms with respect to confidentiality and ongoing non-disclosure apply only to issues that bear upon national security or that, in these extraordinary circumstances, touch upon questions of solicitor-client privilege or cabinet confidence. The MPs are perfectly at liberty to report whenever they want if they think that the procedure of the government is illegitimate or untoward or is in some way designed to subvert the process. There is an ongoing right to report.

Second, if the government's behaviour is truly egregious, the opposition parties are perfectly at liberty to walk away from the whole process. They can come back to you and the House to report that bad faith, as they see it, and to call upon you to renew the question of privilege, because it has not been respected in those circumstances, as was contemplated in your ruling of April 27.

All of us are moving here on uncharted ground. There is no real precedent for what we are trying to accomplish here. It is important for this process to move forward and for us to make progress. We think that the agreement in principle, which has now been translated into a memorandum of understanding that will be signed in the next day or two by three of the four party leaders, moves the yardstick forward. In making available the information that members of Parliament need to hold the government to account, the process takes a thorny situation and makes it more transparent and more accessible. It represents movement. When we compare it to where the government was in December of last year, it is very significant movement forward.

Whether it will be successful, only time will tell. All of the MPs who participated in this exercise need to continue to be vigilant and aggressive in their vigilance to make sure that the spirit and the letter of your ruling of April 27 is, in fact, honoured. However, we think that on the basis of what is available to us today, we can begin the process and make that further progress.

I would conclude with this point. It is incumbent upon the government, as well as on the official opposition and the BQ opposition, to take steps immediately, as of today and tomorrow, to get this ad hoc committee of members of Parliament in place to make sure that it can begin its work forthwith. Canadians have been waiting at least since December 10 of last year, and in reality longer than that, to get this show on the road. It will be some demonstration of genuine good faith on the part of the government if it co-operates now, in the days immediately ahead, with the official opposition and the BQ opposition to make sure that this process comes to life, that the committees are put into place, and that the process of actually reviewing the documents gets under way without further delay.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief, because my two colleagues have presented a number of arguments against finding a prima facie case of privilege.

It is important to point out that we feel the agreement we reached this morning complies fully with your April 27 ruling, in which you recognized that parliamentarians should have access to all the information and documentation, provided that national security was not threatened.

From the outset, all the parties in the House knew they had to find a way to make the information available and public in order to shed light on the allegations of Afghan torture. All the parties were also aware that not all the documentation would be available to everyone at all times.

The government responded to the ruling by first setting up a committee consisting of one member per party—now one member per signing party—to study all 20,000 to 40,000 pages of documentation. As soon as one member—not the majority of members—feels that the information in a document could shed light on the allegations of torture, he forwards it to a panel of three experts chosen by consensus by all the political parties.

This means that no one representative or expert arbiter will support the government, the Liberal Party or the Bloc Québécois. The three parties will have to trust these experts. This three-person panel will find a way to make the information public and will censor it again if the government has been too heavy with its pen or summarize the facts and the situation.

What is important is that the information be passed on as soon as one of the members or the whole committee feels it could shed light on the allegations of torture in Afghanistan. This information will be made available; it will be made public. We also made sure that when the committee of MPs and the expert panel have reviewed the documentation, the information will be made public and tabled in Parliament.

In the end, the confidentiality of cabinet documents and the issue of solicitor-client privilege and legal opinions were sticking points. We managed to find a way to ensure that the information in these documents would also be released to the public and all members. We agreed on a mechanism whereby an expert panel will determine the validity of the government's request to keep a cabinet document or legal opinion confidential. We need to remember that such documents usually remain secret for at least 25 years.

Mr. Speaker, based on your ruling, we found a mechanism to ensure the transmission of the information. In all cases, the panel will have to transmit the information in the documents while respecting confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege. At the end of that particular paragraph, it is written that maximizing disclosure and transparency are the principles that must guide the expert panel in its decisions.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that this agreement is a balanced and creative response to your April 27 ruling. To my knowledge—and I believe that other party leaders have mentioned this—this is the first time such a mechanism has been used. The parties that participated in developing this agreement are to be congratulated.

The other factor that seems extremely important to me is the fact that the ad hoc committee can report to the House at any time. If the government or one of the parties attempts to interfere with the work of the committee or the panel, you and the House will know about it.

I believe that this puts pressure on all parliamentarians, not just the government, to ensure that this agreement produces the outcomes identified in your ruling.

Lastly, I would note that the four parties reached an agreement in principle on May 14. We can review all of the points in the agreement in principle and look at how this morning's agreement addresses each of those points. The agreement in principle is honoured, bearing in mind that you called for a balance between national security and ensuring that parliamentarians have access to all of the documents.

In conclusion, until proven otherwise, the future rests on the members of the committee, on the selection of the three experts, and on beginning the process of sifting through the documents to find the truth. That is the ultimate goal of the process initiated on December 10 when the Liberal Party motion was adopted.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in your examination of this motion that is being proposed today by the member for St. John's East and in considering the agreement that you will see later, it is important to look at the difference between the agreement in principle that was reached by all parties in the House on May 14 and the agreement that will be before you today. Our opinion is that there is a clear departure from where your ruling started, the agreement in principle and where we are at today in terms of how these documents are to be treated and what process is used. I think that is a key point.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to draw to your attention and to make it clear that in our motion that is being proposed here it is very clear that if the government does not comply in giving access to all documents, as outlined in our motion and the memorandum of understanding, there is a provision in our motion for the House then to follow up with a motion of contempt, so that rather than going back to the beginning with a question of privilege, it would immediately flow in terms of going to a question of contempt.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to make that clear as you consider this matter and all of the factors that are involved. We understand that it is a very important decision but your ruling did talk about the need for all parties and all leaders to arrive at an agreement and that has not been the case. It is important that you look at what has transpired here, from the agreement in principle to the details that we are now at, and whether it does indeed meet the intent and the substance of the ruling that you made. In our opinion, it does not.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would like to thank the hon. members for their interventions on this point. I would like to thank the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. I thank the hon. member for St. John's East for his question and I also thank the hon. members for Joliette and Wascana.

I will review the submissions that have been made and return to the House with a decision on this matter shortly.

The House resumed from June 14 consideration of the motion that Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When the bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona had the floor. There are nine minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona.

Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be back speaking to the bill today which, as I indicated yesterday, was Bill C-34 and is now Bill S-2, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts. Several acts are being amended by virtue of this legislation.

This enactment amends: the Criminal Code, the Sex Offender Information Regulation Act and the National Defence Act to enhance police investigation of crimes of a sexual nature and allow police services to use the national database proactively to prevent crimes of a sexual nature. It also amends the Criminal Code, the International Transfer of Offenders Act to require sex offenders arriving in Canada to comply with the Sex Offender Information Registration Act. It also amends the Criminal Code to provide that sex offenders who are subject to a mandatory requirement to comply with the Sex Offender Information Registration Act are also subject to a mandatory requirement to provide a sample for forensic DNA analysis. It also amends the National Defence Act to reflect the amendments to the Criminal Code relating to the registration of sex offenders.

The government has given it a slightly different title. It is calling it the protecting victims from sex offenders act. It has done that with a number of its crime bills.

As I have indicated, the more important legislation that is being amended is the Sex Offender Information Registration Act as well as the DNA data bank.

I will start with the Sex Offender Information Registration Act which came into effect on December 15, 2004, and established a national sex offender database that contains information on convicted sex offenders.

The purpose and principle of the act is to help police services investigate crimes of a sexual nature by requiring the registration of certain information relating to sex offenders. Information such as addresses, telephone numbers, offences, the aliases they may have used, identifying marks, places of employment, tattoos and when they leave their place of residence is all included in the national database.

The registry works to enhance public protection by helping police identify possible suspects known to be near the offence site. The above noted purpose of the registry is to be achieved in accordance with the following principles: first, in the interest of protecting society through the effective investigation of crimes of a sexual nature, police services must have rapid access to certain information relating to sex offenders; and second, the collection and registration of accurate information on an ongoing basis is the most effective way of ensuring that such information is current and reliable.

Police officers appearing before the committee during the review explained that time was of the essence in investigating crimes of all types but no more so than with crimes of a sexual nature, particularly in the case where a child has been kidnapped. During their appearance, the committee was told that in cases where children are kidnapped and murdered 44% were dead within an hour of the kidnapping, 74% were dead within three hours and 91% were dead within 24 hours. We can see that time is absolutely crucial and vital in such cases. We can see that the need to have an extremely quick ability for our police forces to access a data bank of known sexual offenders is critical, particularly in cases where children are involved.

The national sex offender registry is administered and maintained by the RCMP on a national basis and, upon conviction of a designated sexual offence that is enumerated by the act, which is a long list of offences, in one category the Crown may make an application for an order. There is another category of offences under the Criminal Code that are not sexual in nature per se but they may have a sexual component, for example, break and enter. Break and enter is normally not a crime of a sexual nature but if a person is breaking and entering for the purpose of committing a sexual assault, then that second group provides a type of offence that registration may be applied for.

Currently, the Crown may make application upon conviction for an order requiring the sexual offender to register within the database. Such an order is to be made as soon as possible after sentence is imposed for a designated offence or after the court renders a verdict of not criminally responsible for such an offence on account of a mental disorder. For certain designated offences, the court shall make the order when the Crown has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the act was committed with the intent to commit one of the designated sexual offences.

The Criminal Code also requires the court to give reasons for making or refusing an order to register. Currently, there is no automatic registration of offenders upon conviction. Rather, it is left to the discretion of the prosecution and the court to grant such an order. Of course, there is a reverse onus on the accused.

Now a prosecutor has the discretion to make an application and such an application is routinely granted unless the accused meets a very high test of showing why that order ought not be granted. Depending on the offence for which an offender is convicted, he or she must be registered for one of the following three periods: one, a minimum of 10 years for summary conviction offences; two, 20 years for offences where the maximum term is 10 to 14 years; and, three, life for offences for which the maximum term is life itself.

In terms of reporting obligations, if sexual offenders are the subject of an order, they have to register with the police within 15 days after such an order, with a wide variety of information, such as their address, place of work, if they are leaving their domicile for more than 15 days, identifying marks and tattoos, or aliases. If any of those factors are changed, they must be indicated to the local police force very quickly.

These orders, quite properly, are very serious. They impose serious incursions on a person's liberty for a long time, as they properly should. It is important to note that the preamble and purpose of the statute as it is presently written make it abundantly clear that the purpose of the act is to help police investigate crimes of a sexual nature. This means that prior to searching the database, police must have reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been committed and that it is of a sexual nature.

Police officers have said that this is too rigid a test, particularly in the case of an abducted child. When a child has been reported missing, they may have reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been committed, but they may not have the basis to suspect that it is of a sexual nature. We think it is reasonable to expand that purpose so the police can have quicker access, do not have to satisfy this rigid test and have access to the registry quickly.

In addition, police officers have said they require a subject vehicle's information, which is another current deficiency of the act. By the way, that is being included in Bill S-2 as a result of the NDP at committee. Presently, an offender under such an order does not have to indicate vehicle registration. We think it is important the amendment be made to make the act clear because very often sex offenders are spotted in cars near schools or other areas where there might be vulnerable citizens. It is important that police know to whom a vehicle is registered in order for a rapid response.

Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, let me say at the outset that the member's speech is the type of speech in the House of Commons from which we can all benefit. It was a very serious treatment of a very serious issue. His speech has elevated the calibre of the debate in the House of Commons. It was factual, poignant and fitting of the serious subject matter we are dealing with. I think we could all take a lesson from the quality and the calibre of the speeches that my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona regularly, in fact constantly, gives in the House of Commons.

There is one thing on which I would like the member's views, and perhaps he could elaborate. Does he think that this bill, which was introduced through the unelected Senate I might point out, is a perfect example of the Conservatives playing politics with a serious issue rather than giving the serious issue the treatment that it deserves, the type of treatment that was typified by the speech from my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona?

Would he not agree that we could have had this issue dealt with and victims' rights would have been protected had the Conservatives not introduced this bill, then prorogued Parliament, then kept us waiting for months, and then when they chose to reintroduce the bill, they chose not to bring it back through the House of Commons? Actually the public safety committee had already done a statutory review of this very issue just prior to the introduction of this legislation. The Conservatives caused delays of months and months to the point that we are only just getting around to debating this now when the legislation had already been introduced prior to prorogation. The legislation could have been in place, up and running and protecting children as we speak.

I would like my colleague's comments on whether he believes this is a strategy on the part of the Conservatives, to introduce these crime bills and victims' rights bills with no intention of seeing them through to conclusion. In fact, would the member not agree that the Conservatives intend to use these issues on the doorstep during an election campaign, pointing to the opposition parties and saying that the Conservatives keep trying to introduce these crime bills to protect victims and the opposition parties will not let them get them passed?

In actual fact, the Conservatives are the architects of their own demise on these crime bills. It is the height of hypocrisy. If they cared about crime and justice, the Conservatives would introduce these bills and see them through so that they in fact got third reading, royal assent and became the law of the land instead of a political football on another Conservative campaign leaflet.

Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I think the member is on to the Conservatives on the basis of his analysis. That is exactly what is going on here. This is a very confusing process to the viewers who are watching today. What we saw with the pardon legislation yesterday was that the Conservatives did an examination of the pardon system because of a news article four years ago. They decided there was nothing wrong with the pardon system, and then recently they had one of their backbenchers introduce a motion in this House to study the pardon system and report back within three months. All of a sudden there is an article in the paper about Graham James, and boom, the Conservatives brought in a bill and undercut their backbencher who has credibility on the whole pardon issue in the first place. Basically, they took her off the agenda completely.

Now we are talking about Bill C-23, the issue of pardons. This bill has had a similar sort of routing. The committee met last year on the bill, and then the government prorogued the House and we have had to start the process all over again.

This bill could have been passed and enforced already. This bill and most of the other bills in the Conservative crime agenda could have been dealt with had it not been for proroguing the House. Then, as the member said, the Conservatives turn around and end up bringing these bills back through the Senate. That adds an additional level of confusion in the whole process. At the end of the day the bills are the same.

The fact of the matter is the NDP supports sending this bill to committee. We were in favour of it last year, too. There are some improvements that have been made through the committee process. I think it is just a matter of getting this bill off to committee, and hopefully we will get it through, unless or until the government prorogues again. If the Conservatives manage to short-circuit the process and they call an election in September, we will be back to square one again after the next election.

Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to reiterate equal concern with respect to the path that this bill has followed. For a government that supposedly believes in law and order, protection of citizens and avoidance of crime, we have to ponder why on earth it would prorogue and kill all of its crime bills. We would like this bill to go to committee, but there is one issue that troubles me about the progress of these crime bills.

In the environmental law work that I have done and the many governments that I have worked with around the world, I have always encouraged them to follow principles when a bill is being considered for tabling. Simultaneously, any implementing regulations and guidelines should be considered, as well as the budget and resources and training necessary.

I note that when Mr. Steve Sullivan, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime, testified previously on this bill, before prorogation, he begged for a mere $5 million to fund advocacy centres for child victims of sexual crimes in order to help them and to prevent future crimes.

I wonder if the hon. member could speak about whether or not he thinks it is appropriate for the government to spend $2 billion on a two-day summit but cannot find $5 million to protect child victims of sexual abuse.

Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member raised an extremely important point.

The Achilles heel of the government's crime bills in actual fact is its lack in providing an estimate for the resources that would be required mainly for the provinces in order to enforce legislation. The minister admitted just a month ago that one of the bills was estimated to cost $2 million. The Parliamentary Budget Officer came up with a better, more studied opinion a couple of weeks later and said it would be $2 billion. Just on the cost alone of these crime bills, not to mention the Conservatives' whole approach to crime, a lot of their support base is going to turn against them on that basis.

Steve Sullivan was the federal ombudsman for victims of crime. He was hired by the Conservative government three years ago. After three years the Conservatives would not renew his contract because he criticized them. He said their focus was all on punishment and that they were not concerned about victims of crime at all.

Steve Sullivan suggested that we could put $5 million into a fund for centres to help children and the government simply threw the man out because he did not go along with its agenda. He is an expert in the area. The Conservatives do not like expert advice, so they simply shoot the messenger. That is their approach.

I agree with the member that $5 million would have been money well spent. There would be results to show for that expenditure, unlike the $1 billion for security for the G20.

Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-2, which is the reintroduction of Bill C-34 from last session, including amendments made by the committee to that bill.

New Democrats generally support the bill at second reading. We support a productive and, we hope, collaborative review of the bill at committee, as happened with Bill C-34 in the last session. Unfortunately, as has been pointed out by many of my colleagues, the bill died with the government's decision to prorogue Parliament.

The bill contains many important changes to the sex offender registry. The New Democrats support the general thrust of this. We believe there are important loopholes in the present legislation to close and there are strategic and surgical improvements that can be made to the bill that would strengthen the registry.

However, as with a lot of bills, the New Democrats have concerns with the bill. We have reservations around certain specific issues, which I will highlight in my remarks this morning. We trust that all parliamentarians will work together to ensure we have a strong sex offender registry that not only works to make our community safer but also is effective and, at the same time, respects the human and judicial rights of everybody involved in the justice system.

Sex offences generate a great deal of public concern and suffering for the victims of these offences. Many times offences of a sexual nature involve children. As parliamentarians, we are never more engaged than when we talk about protecting women, children and any type of victim from the egregious and horrific offence of a sexual nature.

As a result of these high personal and social costs, governments are constantly looking for tools and methods capable of reducing the incidents of sex offences and protecting the public against the threat that some sex offenders represent.

One attempt to find a solution was the creation, in 2004, of a national registry containing information on offenders who had been convicted of a sexual offence or who had been found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder. This resulted in the creation of the Sex Offender Information Registry Act, which established, for the first time, a national sex offender registry. This registry has been available to law enforcement agencies in Canada for slightly less than five years.

That original legislation contained a mandatory legislative review, which was supposed to take place after two years. Because of previous Conservative and Liberal governments, that review did not take place within the statutorily required two years. They will have to answer to Canadians for that.

However, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security did commence and complete a review of this registry, beginning in 2009. I sat on that committee on behalf of my party and I was pleased to have participated in that review.

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 Code of Canada. These include things such as sexual assault, child pornography, child luring and exhibitionism or, once again, those who were convicted of such offences but held not criminally responsibly on account of incapacity or mental disorder.

Pursuant to the code, the Crown must initiate the registration process. If a court rules that the offender should be registered in the national registry, then an order is issued that requires the offender to report to a designated registration office in the 15 days following the issuance of the order or the offender's release. In April 2009 the committee was informed that the national registry contained the names of over 19,000 offenders.

SOIRA is designed to help the police officers investigate crimes of a sexual nature by giving them access to reliable information on offenders found guilty of these crimes. The registry then contains information that is 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 uses and a description of any distinguishing marks or tattoos that the offender might have.

It is important to note that the public does not have access to the national registry. Only police officers can access it and, under the previous act, only when they are investigating a crime of a sexual nature and have reason to believe that a crime of a sexual nature has been committed. Querying the national registry allows police officers to identify possible suspects among the sex offenders living in the area where a crime of a sexual nature may have been committed. It allows them to eliminate certain people from the list of suspects in order to move the investigation in a rapid and hopefully productive direction.

During her appearance before the committee, Chief Superintendent Kate Lines of the Ontario Provincial Police noted that a registry system:

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

Ms. Lines presented statistics to our committee to illustrate the vital importance of a rapid response in these cases. She said that in cases where a child was kidnapped and murdered, 44% were dead within an hour of the kidnapping, 74% were dead within three hours and 91% were dead within 24 hours. A well-designed, properly functioning sex offender registry is clearly an important tool for police across the country.

The sex offender information registry's purpose has always been based on the following principles. This is language from the current legislation, which has been supported by all parties in the House.

First, in the interest of protecting society through the effective investigation of crimes of a sexual nature, police departments must have rapid access to certain information relating to sex offenders.

Second, the collection and recording of accurate information on an ongoing basis is the most effective way of ensuring that such information is current and reliable.

Third, the privacy interests of sex offenders and the public interest in their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens require that the information be collected only to enable police departments to investigate crimes that there are reasonable grounds to suspect are of a sexual nature and to ensure that access to the information and the use and disclosure of such information is restricted to police.

Proposals to amend the sex offender registry should be measured against those principles.

We have heard some reference to the current government playing politics with this issue and I reluctantly have to agree with that description. The bill could be law today, but the Conservatives prorogued Parliament and killed their own bill. This is a perfect example of the Conservatives playing politics instead of protecting victims of crime.

The public safety committee was 90% complete of our statutory review of the sex offender registry. While we were doing that mandatory legislative review and putting the finishing touches on our report, which had all-party co-operation and contained extensive recommendations after hearing voluminous evidence and careful study, the government introduced Bill C-34 in the last session without even waiting to read our report. Therefore, as might be expected, Bill C-34 contained many holes and did not include important changes that witnesses had proposed to the committee. I will give an example.

The NDP had proposed an amendment at committee that would require sex offenders to disclose the make, colour, licence plate and registration of vehicles they owned or regularly used and add that to the registry. The New Democrats proposed that important closing of a loophole and strengthening of the registry. The government introduced Bill C-34, which did not even have that in it.

We all know that in a case where sex offenders might be in dangerous areas, trolling around schools, knowing the vehicles they have access to and are using is a critical component to protecting our children. Yet the Conservatives, who always claim to be tough on crime, introduced a bill in the House that did not even require sex offenders to disclose the cars that they drove or used. It was the New Democrats who caught that and improved the bill.

This was something police officers testified they needed in cases where all they had was a report of a suspicious vehicle seen near a playground or a school. This shows what happens when the government plays politics instead of making sound legislation that is careful, considered and effective.

The proposed bill before us closes some serious loopholes in the registry. Currently there is no way to track whether a sex offender is presently incarcerated or even deceased. The criteria are so strict that what information can be tracked, police officers are legally prohibited from recording, whether they can even get that information. The bill closes that loophole, which is a good thing.

Because every minute counts in investigations of sex offences and in cases of missing children, police officers would be wasting their time verifying the whereabouts of dead or incarcerated individuals because of this flaw in the current registry.

The proposed bill will expands the range of data that is tracked in the registry and this also is a good thing. If we are investing money and police resources into maintaining the registry, it should contain all the information needed for police to rapidly investigate crimes.

However, I want to talk about something that, again, the government, in its rush to play politics with this issue, overruled its committee on, which makes the bill questionable. It has to do with the concept of automatic registration. The bill proposes automatic registration for all offenders who commit designated offences.

The committee undergoing the study examined automatic registration in great detail. After hearing from all the witnesses, even the Conservative members of the committee agreed there should be judicial discretion to not put someone on the registry where it would harm public safety.

The police representatives who testified before our committee that speed was of the essence when they were investigating. If there were a number of sex offenders who did not pose a threat to the general public, adding those people to the list would actually waste their time at critical moments where speed was called for. If they had 1,000 people on the registry who they had to check in a certain area and they only had 2 hours to do it, they had to track down all those people to rule them out as possible suspects.

We heard from police officers who were familiar with this registry. They said that it was far more important to put people on the registry who did pose a risk so the police could target those suspects in those critical moments. That is why judicial discretion and prosecutorial discretion are important in this registry. We should not put every person convicted of every kind of sexual assault on the registry. Some offenders are not appropriately put on that registry.

As an example, it might be an 18 or 19 year old male who commits a minor transgression, which is still considered a sexual assault. I want to be clear that all sexual assaults are serious, but there is a degree on the continuum and it may well be that it is not appropriate to put the person on the list. Maybe the person is simply not at risk, by any rational examination, of committing a sexual assault in the future. To add that person to the list clogs the system and makes our communities less safe as a result.

I want to talk about sexual abuse in general. The government is quick to go to the punitive side when we talk about sexual offences. I want to talk about helping victims of sexual abuse and show how the government's misdirected and misguided agenda does not really help in many cases.

Earlier this year, Steve Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, testified at the public safety committee. He spoke about the need for the government to fund child advocacy centres in major cities across the country. These centres would provide counselling, support and referrals to other resources for child victims of crime, particularly victims of sexual abuse. We know, and there is no question, the data shows that many sex offenders were themselves sexually abused, often as children. Therefore, child advocacy centres would be an important part of helping to prevent future sex offences.

The victims ombudsman asked the government twice for $5 million to fund these centres and the government refused. The government refused to put up $5 million so that child victims of sexual abuse in this country would have a place to go to in the major urban centres of this country where they could be treated and counselled.

Despite the fact that this was an egregious and terrible decision made by a government, we should think of the implications for public safety because once again, some of those victims of child sexual abuse will be more likely to become adult child sex offenders or sex offenders when they grow up because of their own victimization.

For a very small amount of money, the government could have taken a concrete step that not only helps the children of our country, some of the most victimized children who are most in need of our assistance, but it has also lost an opportunity to make a dent in preventing future sexual offences.

The other thing that is important to note is that we cannot just have a registry. We also need the resources necessary so that our police forces can have access to the registry. Nothing I see in the bill before us contains any increased resources for the sex offender registry. I am concerned that it downloads the burden on to already overstretched police forces. We will need to ensure that if we are to increase registration in the registry, we ensure police forces have the resources necessary to access that registry.

I also want to talk about crime prevention. The bill adds crime prevention to the list of purposes to the act. New Democrats agree with this because originally police officers told us that access to the registry was too rigid. They testified before our committee that the test of waiting until they had reasonable ground to suspect a crime had been committed of a sexual nature was too strict. The example they gave was that they might get a call from a distraught mother who said her child was missing. That may be enough to suspect that a crime has been committed, but there is really no reasonable basis at that point to suspect it is of a sexual nature. New Democrats heard from police officers and we agreed with them that we needed to make changes and expand the opportunity for police to access the registry.

I am pleased to see in the bill that the government is moving in that regard. By putting in crime prevention, it allows police to access the registry in order to prevent a crime, and I think that is a positive thing. However, we must also be careful to ensure that there are parameters around that power because once again, it is important to control access to the registry and the way police use it so that sensitive information is not used in an inappropriate manner.

I also want to talk a little bit about the New Democrat position on crime prevention because it is one of the major deficiencies in the government's approach to the crime agenda. Its agenda is always about measures to deal with a crime after it has been committed and it is always about punishing harder and longer. It does not put resources into crime prevention, which I think is what Canadians really want.

Canadians want to live in safer communities. We want to ensure we reduce our crime rate. We want to ensure there are fewer victims of crime, not harsher punishment of the offender after the crime has been committed.

In terms of crime prevention, what I am looking for from the government, not only with this legislation that is important to deal with offenders after they have committed a sex offence, but with my New Democrat colleagues, we will continue to press the government to add resources and to take legislative measures that will help prevent crime in this country.

I have already mentioned child advocacy centres. We have already heard that Steve Sullivan, the victims ombudsman, has testified that victims want more resources put into crime prevention because nobody can undo or understand the damage that is felt by a victim of crime.

What we need to do and what victims want is for us to pour resources into helping ensure that those crimes are not committed in the first place.

The government has a responsibility to work with offenders. We call on the government to ensure that we take intelligent measures, that when offenders are caught they get the kind of help and therapy that hopefully will help them not to reoffend in the future.