Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House of Commons this evening to speak on second reading of Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act.
I would like to add to the comments made by my friend, the hon. Minister of Justice, with respect to the provisions in Bill C-10 that would ensure individuals who sexually abuse children serve sentences that reflect the severity of their heinous crimes committed against the most vulnerable and defenceless members of society.
Over the duration of my almost 40 years of practical experience in law enforcement, I have played a leading role in helping protect victims of child abuse and exploitation.
Canadians have long supported this government's efforts to put the plight of victims ahead of the rights of criminals. The commitment was made in the June 1, 2004 document entitled “Demand Safer Communities”, the Conservative plan for Canada’s criminal justice system. wherein it stated:
--prohibit conditional sentences for child sex offences to ensure that all of those charged with these offences will serve prison time and be removed from the community.
Our government has listened to the plight of victims and law-abiding Canadians. Our government has received successive strengthened mandates from Canadians to pass these long-needed reforms to give law enforcement and victims the upper hand.
That is why I am honoured to rise as a member of this government today. We are delivering on the promise to Canadians by working to pass this important legislation without further delay.
One of the other objectives of our legislation to address child sexual exploitation is preventing the commission of a contact sexual offence against a child in the first place. It does so by proposing two new offences, and proposing to require courts to consider imposing two new specific conditions that would serve to prevent a suspected or convicted child sex offender from engaging in conduct that could facilitate their sexual offending.
These proposals remain as originally introduced in former Bill C-54. 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. This practice is often used by child sex offenders to groom their victims to make it easier to sexually exploit their victims.
This conduct is already prohibited where the material consists of child pornography, but if the material in question depicts adults engaged in explicit sexual activity, the Criminal Code does not currently prohibit this use of material. This does not meet the very high threshold of the legal definition of obscene material under section 163 of the Criminal Code.
This current definition only applies to depictions of explicit sexual activity coupled with violence or that are judicially determined to be degrading or dehumanizing. Clearly, this creates a gap in our criminal law, and Bill C-10 represents an appropriate and reasonable response to that gap.
This new offence would carry a penalty similar to that of the existing obscenity/corruption morals offence in section 163, namely a maximum of six months imprisonment on summary conviction and two years imprisonment on an indictable offence. It would impose a mandatory minimum of 30 days on summary conviction and 90 days on an indictable, more serious criminal offence.
The second new 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. Again, this new offence would fill a gap in the current law.
Currently, the offence of luring a child, section 172 of the Criminal Code, prohibits using a computer system to communicate directly with a child for the purposes of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that child. This offence does not apply where the communication does not directly involve the child victim.
The new offence uses the term “telecommunications” which is defined by section 2 of the Federal Interpretation Act as the emission, transmission or reception of signs, signals, writings, images, sounds or intelligence of any nature by any wire, cable, radio, optical or other electromagnetic system, or by any similar technical system.
In my view, this broad definition and approach ensures that the new offence will apply to the same prohibited use of any new technology that may be created after this offence is enacted. This new offence would operate in a manner similar to the existing luring a child offence under section 172.1 of the Criminal Code. For example, both contain the same provisions about presumed or reasonable but mistaken belief in the age of a child. Both preserve the common law defence of entrapment for an accused in the appropriate circumstances, and both would carry the same penalties, a mandatory minimum of 90 days and a maximum of 18 months imprisonment on summary conviction and a mandatory minimum of one year and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment on an indictable offence.
Bill C-10 proposes to add these two new offences to schedule 1 of the Criminal Records Act. Individuals convicted of these new offences would be ineligible to apply for a record suspension, currently known as a pardon and which part 3 of Bill C-10 proposes to rename as a record suspension.
Bill C-10 also includes former Bill C-54's proposals to expand the powers of a court to prohibit a convicted child sex offender, under section 161, and a suspected child sex offender, under section 810.1, from engaging in conduct that could facilitate their commission of one of the enumerated child sexual or abduction offences.
Specifically, these proposals would broaden the list of offences for which these conditions may be imposed to include the four child procuring prostitution offences in section 212. These are described in the actual words in the Criminal Code. It would also direct a court to consider imposing a condition prohibiting the offender from having any unsupervised access to a young person or from having any unsupervised use of the Internet.
The objective of these conditions is self-evident. If we deny a known or suspected child sex offender access to a child or from having access to a tool such as the Internet that can enable that person to sexually exploit a child, then hopefully we can prevent the victimization of yet other victims.
As chief of the London police force, I led an investigation into a network of individuals involved in child sexual abuse and exploitation. I believe that we must do better. In these circumstances, I can relate the statement of a 15-year old victim. In referring to his victimizer he said, “He preys on street kids. He'll feed them, give them drugs, money. He doesn't even care what he's done. He couldn't care less about any one of the kids, including myself”.
Bill C-10 proposes welcomed reforms to better protect Canadians, particularly to better protect vulnerable children and youth against sexual abuse and exploitation.
As I have noted, many of these proposals were previously debated and studied in the previous Parliament. Accordingly, I think all members should be able to work together to ensure the expeditious enactment of these long-needed reforms. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
It has been stated that even in the most ungoverned kingdoms, animals protect their young. We collectively, as a responsible society, can do no less to protect our children from those who seek to sexually violate them.
There has been a lot of talk and discussion about the role of judges, and there are judges who really, I believe, have captured the significance of what it is that we are talking about in terms of the imperative need for us to rise to equip our police officers, the courts, and the system as a whole, to better protect vulnerable people, especially our children.
I wish to quote Mr. Justice Moldaver from the Ontario Court of Appeal. Adjudicating with his colleagues over a case, he stated:
While...the offender’s prospects for rehabilitation will always warrant consideration, the objectives of denunciation, deterrence, and the need to separate sexual predators from society for society’s well-being and the well-being of our children must take precedence.