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House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-10.

Topics

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been reviewing some of the costs that we are coming to now. A single new low-security cell will cost a quarter of a million dollars, a single new medium-security cell almost half a million dollars and a high-security cell $600,000. The total annual cost per woman inmate is $343,000, and for a male it almost $225,000. This is at a time when we could be investing in children.

As you may know, Mr. Speaker, and as I know the hon. member from Edmonton knows, we are spending less than half on each aboriginal student in Canada. Certainly that is true in Ontario.

Does this make any sense when, for a small investment in education and a small investment in feeding programs in the schools, we could be preventing future costs of such magnitude?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his astute question.

We heard only today in the House, during question period, the reply by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development when concerns were raised about the slow pace of response to the crisis in Attawapiskat. His response was that he is concerned that despite the spending a lot of money in this community, the problems have not been solved.

The amount of money that the minister raised pales in comparison to the money being spent on the imprisonment of our aboriginal population. It pales in comparison to the moneys we are spending on the education of our aboriginal youth.

As the national leader of the Assembly of First Nations has pointed out, if we do not turn the corner, we are still going to be incarcerating more youth and we are going to be graduating them from high school.

I will share the quote from the Supreme Court of Canada in the Gladue case:

These findings cry out for recognition of the magnitude and gravity of the problem, and for responses to alleviate it. The figures are stark and reflect what may fairly be termed a crisis in the Canadian criminal justice system. The drastic overrepresentation of aboriginal peoples within both the Canadian prison population and the criminal justice system reveals a sad and pressing social problem.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her presentation and for focusing on the impact on our aboriginal communities.

It strikes me that when the only implement in the tool box is a sledgehammer, everything starts to look like a rock.

I would seek the hon. member's comments on a more sophisticated approach to reforming our criminal justice system, as opposed to the one before us in the bill, and in particular with respect to the misplaced emphasis on retribution versus crime prevention and a focus on the root causes of crime.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member's question basically sums up the concerns that have been raised on this side of the House.

Canada has been renowned for having a justice system that tries to balance the scales. What is more important is that if the government is, as it professes to be, concerned about the victims of crime, then surely our focus should be on the prevention of crime and the prevention of victimization of youth.

One part of the bill that members on this side of the House fought very hard to have separated out of it and expedited in the last Parliament is the sexual exploitation of children. I notice that Senator Patrick Brazeau has authored a piece talking about the fact that nowhere is the devastation of sexual exploitation more pervasive than among aboriginal children and that they represent as much as 90% of those being exploited. Senator Brazeau is calling for programs to deal with this and to prevent the sexual exploitation.

Surely that makes sense. Surely we need to pool our resources and move towards addressing this critical discrimination of the victims being aboriginal children.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, Health; the hon. member for Halifax, The Environment; and the hon. member for Cardigan, Fisheries and Oceans.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate, I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed Bill C-16, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (military judges).

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to speak in favour of Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act, during this report stage. I am particularly pleased to support the amendments that would strengthen this important bill.

Before speaking to the proposed amendments, I would like to put them into a larger context.

After 20 years of police work and working within the justice system, I often hear great frustration with our justice system. Even when violent criminals are put behind bars, they never seem to complete their sentences, and before we know it, they are back on the street committing crimes. Meanwhile, the rights of the victims are overlooked and forgotten.

There is something wrong with that picture. Canadians know it, and so does our government.

When we first took office, we identified greater safety and security for Canadians as a priority. For the past six years, we have moved decisively on our law and order agenda. We have invested substantial resources to help law enforcement agencies do their jobs better. We have passed laws to ensure that offenders do serious time for serious crime. We have supported crime prevention to help keep youth away from gangs, drugs and violence. We have pursued these efforts with one overarching goal: to make our streets and communities safer.

I am proud to say that Bill C-10 is a natural extension of these efforts. The proposed legislation before the House would go a long way toward protecting the most vulnerable of our society, as well as victims of terrorism. It would hold offenders and supporters of terrorism more accountable for their actions.

Let me highlight exactly how it would do that.

First, the bill would continue the work begun with the serious time for serious crime act. To that end, it would establish or increase mandatory minimums and increase maximum sentences for various serious offences, particularly those related to children and youth. Offenders convicted of child exploitation would no longer be eligible for a conditional sentence or house arrest, and drug dealers involved with organized crime who target youth could also expect harsher sentences.

As well, we not willing to wait until a crime is committed before taking action. Police would be given the tools to be proactive rather than reactive. The bill would require judges to consider putting limits on suspected or convicted child sex offenders. It would empower police to arrest, without a warrant, offenders who are in breach of the conditions of release. In other words, the bill would put the rights of victims ahead of the rights of offenders, which is where they should be.

In the same vein, Bill C-10 introduces new measures both to increase the accountability of offenders and to strengthen the voices of victims.

Under the new legislation, offenders would be required to have a correctional plan that laid out clear expectations of behaviour. This would include, for example, a requirement to meet court-ordered obligations to repay victims or to pay child support.

The legislation also introduces new penalties for inmates who display disrespectful or intimidating behaviour, whether it is directed at staff or at other inmates.

The bill would also make an important change in exchanging the word “pardon” for the phrase “record suspension”. We want to send a clear message that closing off a criminal record from the public eye does not forgive the offence. The offences committed by these individuals can often scar victims for a lifetime, and we believe it is important to recognize that fact.

What is more, we would make it impossible for certain offenders to apply for a record suspension. In the government's view, anyone convicted of a sexual offence related to a minor does not deserve a record suspension.

In the interests of public safety, child molesters, even after release, should carry the history of their offence with them for all time, not as an extra punishment but to protect the safety of the most vulnerable in society, our children.

By the same token, the bill would allow the minister to refuse an offender's transfer from a foreign prison back to Canada if there was any risk to the public and, in particular, to the safety of a child. Offenders should serve the time in the country in which they were convicted.

Victims are generally kept in the dark about an offender's life in prison. They do not know whether offenders are taking part in rehabilitation programs, if they have been absent from institutions temporarily, or if they are being transferred to a minimum security facility. Victims deserve more, plain and simple. Therefore, Bill C-10 would give them the right to take part in conditional release board meetings, and to be in the loop about the behaviour and handling of offenders.

I have spoken up until now about keeping our streets and communities safer from crime, but there are other risks and other types of victims. I am speaking, of course, about terrorism and its victims. Just as victims of crime deserve a greater voice, so too do victims of terrorism acts. Bill C-10 would allow victims to seek redress in the courts against the perpetrators of terrorism and their supporters. It would set in place a rigorous process for the listing of state sponsors of terrorism by the Government of Canada.

Our government is determined to do everything in its power to protect Canadians and make our streets and communities safer for all. To achieve that goal, we want to make this legislation as strong as possible. I am proud that the government passed four amendments at the committee stage and has introduced another at report stage. I would like to add my support to the amendment proposed today and to the two passed by committee pertaining to public safety.

The initial legislation proposed that victims should be able to sue foreign states for supporting terrorism. The government has proposed today that victims should also be able to sue foreign states for having directly committed an act of terrorism. I am proud to support this proposed amendment. I am equally pleased to support the two amendments related to public safety passed by the committee. The first would help lighten the burden on victims of terrorism, while the second would allow a court to hear a matter based solely on the plaintiff's Canadian citizenship or permanent residency.

I want to add my thanks to the committee members for their good work. I must add that for all the hours I sat there, they did an unbelievable job on both sides. In recognition of the committee's close scrutiny of the bill, I urge all members to join me in supporting these amendments. Together, we can make our streets and communities safer for all Canadians.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, in no less than six months I have bought 13 copies of the book The Spirit Level by Wilkinson. I have given them away and I will buy more because it is a scientific work that shows how in the 33 richest, most developed countries, the four best countries in the world with outcomes including crime are the Scandinavian countries. The U.S. is the worst with these parameters and Canada is sliding toward the American model.

My question for the member is this. Instead of investing, as the U.S. has foolishly done and is now starting to see the error of its ways, when are the Conservatives, and hopefully the member, going to invest in education, health care, treatment for mental addictions, and especially work toward reducing the growing gap in income in some of the worst developed countries in the world?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a former police officer, there are a number of programs that are instituted by not only the RCMP but countless provincial and municipal police organizations that work toward trying to keep youth out of the system. We are pretty successful at it, but there is that segment of society that we cannot control. For those people, there needs to be a movement toward incarceration. It is unfortunate that has to occur, but it is part of the process.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pause for just a moment to thank the hon. member for Kootenay--Columbia for the non-partisan way he credited members on both sides of the committee. This bill has been so filled with rancour in the debate that that was a nice departure.

However, I do find it worrying that there is a lot rhetoric about how the bill supports victims, but there is very little in the bill that actually does support victims. I was taken with the evidence of the Ottawa Victim Services director, Steve Sullivan, who asked, “Where is the support here for women who have been victims of sexual violence”? Where is the support, the counselling, the help for victims who need funding to be able to manage when they have been assaulted and cannot get to work? Where is the tangible help for victims because I do not see it in this legislation?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are victim support groups throughout the provinces, and I will speak about British Columbia and specifically, my constituency of Kootenay--Columbia.

Victim support is part of the provincial court system that allows victims to go and seek redress for whatever type of requirement they need, whether it is for, as the member indicated, trying to get here and there to a doctor's appointment or to a counselling appointment. It provides opportunities for people to find programs that are available to help them move forward after the crime has been committed and the perpetrator has been dealt with.

I believe we are doing an excellent job with regard to crime prevention programs and support for victims of crime.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of those who are looking in on this particular debate today, there is some context to it. We talk about a balanced approach from the government with respect to how we deal with the criminal justice system. In budgets past we have made tremendous investments, multi-million dollar investments for that matter, in measures to prevent crime, to get to the at-risk youth. How did the opposition members vote on those? They opposed them, notwithstanding what they say today.

We have measures to put more front line police officers on the beat, working in the community to find those who are involved in crime and to work with community groups to keep people away from crime. How did they vote? They voted against it, notwithstanding what they say about prevention today.

Is not what we are dealing with today what the opposition has also stalled in previous Parliaments; that is, measures to rebalance the criminal justice system to deal with the public safety threats that are out there and it is reluctant to deal with? Would the member comment on that?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have been trying our best to move forward with Bill C-10 to ensure that the victims of crime are the ones that are recognized as the actual victims here. We have to ensure that those that commit the crimes do the time. I believe that Bill C-10 does that. I believe that we are heading in the right direction and I am all for this one.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak at report stage of Bill C-10, the Conservative omnibus bill. The bill is actually made up of nine bills combined into one. It is a bill that the Conservative government is ramming through the House without proper scrutiny. We do not even know how much it is going to cost. Witnesses were barely given time to speak as they were forced through committee so quickly.

New Democrats proposed to the government that the bill be divided, so that the parts which would improve public safety and help protect our children could be passed at all stages immediately. I am the father of two young children. I know how important it is to protect our children. Unfortunately, the Conservative government rejected our proposals.

We also proposed amendments to the bill, which the Conservatives flatly rejected at committee. The Conservatives do not want to debate the real problem with this legislation or any other legislation they put in front of Parliament.

Every day in the House the Conservatives undermine democracy by shutting down debate prematurely without reason. New Democrats tabled a motion in the House last Friday in a last attempt to stop this because this is a democracy and Canadians deserve a real debate.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that Bill C-10 would cost the federal government $5 billion over five years and the provinces and territories somewhere between $6 to $10 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is working to complete more detailed projections; however, he has to work basically in the dark because not all of the facts and figures have been provided to him by the government. The government has not provided adequate information so he can do his work.

Many critics suspect that the government's refusal to produce realistic costing documents is because it has no idea what the real price tag for Bill C-10 is going to be. Worse yet, the government wants to force this legislation into law before we have a chance to find out how much it is going to cost Canadian taxpayers.

Since the introduction of this controversial omnibus bill, we have seen a groundswell of concern from across this country. Opposition to the Conservative crime agenda has been steadily mounting. Experts from across the political spectrum have urged the government to rethink the sweeping changes to the criminal justice system that are contained in Bill C-10.

We have heard repeated warnings about huge costs to taxpayers, the crippling impact on our courts, and the enormous pressure that will be put on our already struggling corrections system. These serious warnings are simply being dismissed by the Conservatives without any explanation.

In response to questions about Bill C-10, the Minister of Justice recently commented, “We're not governing on the basis of the latest statistics”. Clearly, facts and evidence, and research were not a priority when the government was drafting Bill C-10, but neither was the cost to taxpayers.

Provincial leaders spoke out in committee against the bill. They have been very clear that they are not ready to bear the costs of the government's political agenda, nor do they agree with many of the measures contained in the bill.

The Canadian Association of Crown Counsel has spoken out and has said that Bill C-10 will overload prosecutors and jam our already stressed court system.

This so-called tough on crime agenda has already failed across the border in the United States, where governments are moving away from the same approach that the Conservatives are now proposing. States like Texas are now abandoning the mandatory minimum and three strikes policies that lead to ballooning prison costs, populations and skyrocketing costs to the taxpayers. States have found that these approaches have actually done little to prevent crime, but do a great deal toward bankrupting the states.

Canada should be learning from the mistakes of our neighbours, not repeating them. We need practical solutions on crime that improves safety in our communities, not old strategies that are expensive and proven to be failures.

There are some measures in the bill, like provisions that toughen laws around child luring, sexual exploitation of children, that we as New Democrats fully support, but there are also those that will do nothing to make our streets and communities safer places.

New Democrats believe that the primary goal of any legislation, any changes to our criminal justice system, should be public safety, safer streets and to protect our families and communities. A major way to accomplish this is by supporting cost effective crime prevention programs that really make a difference, something which the government has failed to address.

I spoke up about a program last week. There is a society in my constituency whose funding is being cut and it actually helps at-risk youth, educating them about self-esteem and getting back into school. The funding for this program is being cut by the Conservatives.

Our communities would be safer if the government focused on goals like putting more police on the streets and stopping gangs from recruiting our youth.

Conservatives always talk about how they are investing into policing, the front line officers. The facts are that the Auditor General, in the last report in June, pointed out that police officers were woefully underfunded to fight against gangs and crime. We need more front line police officers. Not only do they help prevent crime, but they help to deter crime. That is a good way to go about preventing crime in our communities.

We should ensure that our corrections system has rehabilitation programs that reduce the rate of re-offending. Unfortunately, the government is cutting funding to prevention programs like the Pathfinders about which I talked. Youth gang prevention programs are critical to the future of our children and the safety of our communities.

This Conservative approach is not smart on crime. Canadians deserve better. I urge the government to reconsider the real concerns of Canadians expressed by members of the opposition and people across the country.

At the last stage of the bill, I urge the Conservative members to consider the amendments proposed by New Democrats and I urge it not to push the bill through.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's comments and am very interested to hear his viewpoint on a couple of things he brought forward.

First, he said that there was a groundswell across Canada against this bill. I was actually one of the members of Parliament who had a protest outside my office. There were 10 people and the majority of them were affiliated with special interest groups, some involved with the New Democratic Party and some with, let us say, original points of view on drug use.

The member said that we needed more police officers on the streets. Members know that we provided money for 1,800 more front-line officers, but the NDP voted against it. I know the gentleman is a new member, but he does not realize that his party's stance on this is way out of touch with Canadians.

He talked about the program cut in his community. We established these programs, but they are not meant to exist forever. Then New Democrats want us to extend programs that they have already voted against.

Could he address the fact that there are differences in the criminal justice system? There are hard-nosed criminals who repeat offences and the best thing we can do for victims is keep them off the street instead of allowing them back on the street and coddling them.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I may be new to the House, but I know what has been going on in the community. I have been listening to my constituents and there is huge support for the proposals that New Democrats are making. In fact, I have heard from many of my constituents who are dead set against this approach to the crime and prison agenda.

I do not have to look at the Conservatives' facts. I can look at the facts that are provided by the Auditor General. The Auditor General, in his June report, stated that the RCMP was woefully underfunded by the government and that we needed more front-line police officers so we could deter crime from happening in the first place.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, my question for the hon. member relates to the impact of this bill on the provincial coffers. In my province, provincial institutions are already strained. This will add an additional strain, yet apparently there is no compensation that comes with it. We have heard from the Canadian Association of Crown Prosecutors that there is a lot of money for police and prisons, but in between there is a system that is stressed to the max and that system is largely the responsibility of provincial governments.

Could I hear from my hon. friend with respect to the impact on provincial governments?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we heard from a number of ministers at committee. We heard from Quebec, B.C. and a number of other provinces. The fact is this is basically offloading a federal cost to the provinces. I read in newspapers this morning that B.C. was already running a very high deficit. This is going to add additional costs to the provinces. Some of the programs that the provinces are responsible for, such as education, health care and schools, are going to be chopped as a result of the federal government bill.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have heard the Conservatives talk repeatedly about police officers. I am a former police officer. Is our hon. member aware that before he was elected, the NDP asked repeatedly for thousands more police officers? We just heard a member say that there was money for police officers and prisons. Unfortunately, it is only prisons.

Is he aware that New Democrats have been asking for more police officers and that the need has not been met?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have worked with police officers for 14 years. A number of them were my colleagues and I worked side by side with them in my former job at the Justice Institute in New Westminster. I have talked to many police officers over the years. As part of my former job, I did training with police. Many police officers have said that the number one thing they need is more front-line officers on the streets.

They have been asking for additional police officers and New Democrats have been asking for additional police officers. In fact, one of my first questions for the public safety minister was about getting more police officers on the streets.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act. I welcome all of the proposals in the bill. I believe their enactment, both individually and collectively, will make a significant contribution to safeguard all communities across Canada.

I will first address the impact for victims of violent crime.

In my riding of Etobicoke Centre, there is a family named Cikovic. The parents are Vesna and Davorin. Vesna is a piano teacher and Davorin works at CBC-Radio. Their son, Boris, attended high school in Etobicoke at Scarlet Heights.

The Cikovic family were refugees from war-torn Sarajevo, with Boris arriving in Canada as an infant. This family worked to escape the horrors of a war where former neighbours preyed upon each other and visited atrocities upon each other in every form imaginable. The family settled in Canada, grateful for the new start they had and grateful for the opportunities that Canada had provided their son.

As Boris grew up in Canada, he became the all-Canadian kid, an athlete and gifted hockey player, a leader on the ice, helping less skilled players score and achieve rather than allow his own talent to dominate. He mentored his teammates. At so young an age, he showed maturity and wisdom that was returned by his large circle of friends with great affection and strong bonds that developed in elementary school and endured through high school and what would have appeared to be beyond university and throughout life. Boris was a leader and one that this close circle rallied around. He was a natural and his future appeared limitless. Then, on a night in 2008, Boris and his friends were transiting a local park, were accosted and he was shot and killed while being robbed of his backpack and valuables.

The Cikovics are victims, devastated by the tragic loss of their only son who had natural gifts and talents and was on his way to becoming a model Canadian success story.

What of the Cikovic family in this? Do is care that Statistics Canada says that crime is down, as the members opposite often cite? I asked the Cikovics that and their response was a resounding no. I challenge any member opposite to look that family in the eye and quote that statistic. The Cikovics are not vengeful people, but they are entitled to justice for their son.

Of the many provisions in Bill C-10, victims of crime would have the ability to present statements at Parole Board hearings. If attending the hearing, the victim may comment on the harm or damage resulting from the offence and its continuing impact, including concerns for his or her safety and the possible release of the offender. Even if the victims does not attend, the Parole Board may authorize presentation of the statement in an alternative format.

Also authorized to present a statement are the persons described to have been harmed or suffered a loss due to the act of the offender. This includes any safety concerns and concerns regarding the offender's potential release. This provision provides victims with empowerment and a role in the corrections process.

Other areas include the elimination of pardons for violent crime and measures that protect the public from violent and repeat young offenders.

Today I speak for a family that has been tragically victimized and I speak in the name of Boris Cikovic who can no longer speak for himself, but today in the House his voice is heard.

I will focus my remaining remarks on Bill C-10 proposals that address child sexual exploitation and violent crimes in part 2 of the bill.

As members know, these proposals were originally introduced as Bill C-54, protecting children from sexual predators act and with all party support had been passed by this chamber in the last Parliament. Bill C-10 has reintroduced these proposals with some additional sentencing enhancements that are consistent with and reflect the overall objectives of these reforms.

Part 2 seeks to better protect children and youth from sexual predators in two ways: first, by proposing sentencing enhancements to ensure that all sexual offences involving child victims are consistently and strongly condemned; and second, by creating new offences and measures to prevent the commission of a child sexual offence.

Bill C-10 has been reported back to the House of Commons after having been thoroughly studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, without any amendments to its child sexual exploitation reforms. Indeed, part 2 proposals received strong support by witnesses appearing before the justice committee, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, the Kids' Internet Safety Alliance, KINSA, as well as the minister of justice and attorney general for New Brunswick who said:

I believe strongly that crimes against children deserve strong sentencing. We believe the changes proposed in this crime bill will make it possible to achieve that objective.

I could not agree more.

Bill C-10 proposes to enhance the sentencing or penalties for sexual offenders involving child victims in two ways. It proposes to impose seven new and nine higher mandatory minimum penalties as well as higher maximum penalties for four child specific sexual offences.

These amendments are needed because, currently, the Criminal Code only imposes MMPs on 12 child specific sexual offences and none at all in the general sexual offences where the victim is a child. For those offences that already impose MMPs, these are inconsistent or simply inadequate. The effect of imposing MMPs in only some but not all sexual offences sends an inconsistent message that not all child sexual offences are serious and perhaps even that some child sexual assault victims are less victims than others.

Imposing inconsistent and inadequate MMPs is equally problematic. For example, currently the Criminal Code imposes a mandatory minimum penalty of 45 days for the offence of sexual interference of a child, even though the maximum penalty or indictment is 10 years. Bill C-10 proposes to fix this by increasing this MMP to one year.

To my mind, and I think to all of us here, the current inconsistent and inadequate approach to sentencing in child sexual abuse cases is wrong. Who among us does not agree that children are the most vulnerable in our society and that all children are deserving of equal protection against all forms of child sexual exploitation? As I noted earlier, Bill C-10 also seeks to prevent sexual assault against children. It proposes two new offences criminalizing sexual assault against children that police witnesses were particularly against.

The first new offence would prohibit anyone from providing sexually explicit material to a young person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that young person. Child sex offenders often use adult pornographic material to groom their victims, for example to lower their victims' sexual inhibitions with a view to making it easier to sexually exploit them. Though any such use of child pornography is already prohibited, this is not the case for adult material. Accordingly, this new offence would fill a gap. The proposed new offence would impose a mandatory minimum penalty consistent with other parts of the bill.

The second offence proposed by Bill C-10 would prohibit anyone from using telecommunications to agree or make arrangements with another person to commit a sexual offence against a child. This offence is modelled on the existing “luring a child” offence of the Criminal Code that prohibits the use of a computer system to directly communicate with a child for the purpose of facilitating a sexual offence against that child. However, as the “luring a child” offence only applies when communication is with the child victim, this new offence closes the gap where the communication is between two other persons to facilitate the commission of a sexual offence against a child. This offence would also impose a mandatory minimum penalty.

As well, Bill C-10 would impose a condition on convicted child sex offenders or on suspected child sex offenders, a recognizance or peace bond under section 810.1, prohibiting them from having any unsupervised access to a young person or unsupervised use of the Internet. Preventing a known or suspected child sex offender from having the opportunity and tools to commit a child sexual offence should protect other children from being victimized.

I urge all members to support the swift enactment of Bill C-10 so that Canada's children will be protected against sexual exploitation.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, my heart goes out to the family of Mr. Cikovic, to whom the member referred earlier. We certainly do not disagree that we on both sides of the House would like to prevent crimes such as this. I guess that leads me to my question.

How would this bill do anything to prevent what happened to the Cikovics from happening again? Could the member explain that for me, please?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would assist in preventing further crimes because mandatory minimum sentences would be imposed on a lot of these crimes within Bill C-10, which would add a further deterrent to criminals contemplating perpetrating this form of crime, especially a violent crime in this case. If a crime, in this case as it has been committed, is perpetrated, it also would allow the victims a form of redress and being able to access the parole system and to have an ability to impact on the offender's incarceration.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I just want to follow up on that last answer. The suggestion from the hon. member is that the mandatory minimum sentence would provide a deterrent and yet there is no evidence for this. In fact, there is evidence in the United States to the contrary.

My question is whether the member's view of the criminal law is that the right way to go is “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, or does he subscribe to a more enlightened view based on proportionality?