Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I stand today to speak on a bill that I acknowledge has come forward from a private member who deserves a lot of merit. Obviously the individual has put in a great deal of time and thought in bringing the bill forward.
In reading through his speech, I found that the MP for Langley made reference to a very personal situation in his constituency. I thought it was worth repeating because by doing so, we get a better appreciation of why the member felt so compelled to bring in this private member's bill.
...a sex offender was permitted to serve a house arrest right next door to his young victim. In another case, the sex offender served house arrest across the street from the young victim. In both cases, the poor victims lived in fear and were re-victimized every time they saw their attacker.
I can appreciate why the member found this completely unacceptable.
All sorts of different crimes take place in our communities. When a crime is against a person, such as a physical assault or a sexual crime of any nature, it has quite a different impact compared with, let us say, a home break-in or a car theft, which are crimes of property damage.
We want our laws to not only ensure that there is some sort of a consequence when a person commits a crime but also that we can provide support for our victims, and we do that in different ways.
We want to prevent victims from being re-victimized by the same individual who might have caused them harm in the first place. I believe that is what the member is attempting to do with this piece of legislation. That is the reason I am very sympathetic to and comfortable with what the member is proposing to the House.
The restriction that we are talking about, a two-kilometre perimeter to not knowingly be in the presence of or living near a victim, seems to be a reasonable request.
Not travelling in a vehicle with someone who is 16 and under again seems to be a reasonable request.
There are all sorts of situations that could arise that I think members will try to deal with in a fair fashion, and I think that in this situation we are seeing just that.
I noted that the new restriction on sex offenders that is being proposed would prohibit sex offenders from being in close proximity to their victims. That is a substantive and ultimately, perhaps, a very useful change. That is why we feel fairly comfortable supporting the initiative from the member.
It is important that we recognize that often the interests of a victim are ignored, even though it might be unintentional, when a judge or another area of our judicial system takes an action.
The focus of our system is to look at the criminal and ensure that an appropriate consequence to whatever type of crime might have been committed is actually put into place. We think in terms of the consequence. Often, at times, the aspect that is left out is the consideration given to victims.
In this situation, we have a proactive approach in recognizing that there is more we could do. As such, the member is proposing an amendment to two pieces of legislation that would go a long way in dealing with that concern.
It is important that we recognize, as I have, that a sexual offence is a unique kind of offence that makes victims quite vulnerable. The violation is unique in comparison to other types of crimes, and we need to take that into consideration. There is a profound psychological impact that will often follow an individual for many years after being the victim of a sexual crime. Often victims will relive or suffer the consequences of the crime, while the perpetrator of the crime may come back into the community. As the member has pointed out, a perpetrator living next door to or always being around the victim re-victimizes the individual every time she or, in the odd case, he sees the perpetrator.
That said, it is important that we recognize that the bill is an attempt to prevent someone from being re-victimized. I appreciate the manner in which it has been brought forward.
Liberals take the issue of crime and safety in our communities very seriously. We want to ensure that our judicial system allows our judges the discretion to make good rulings and deliver appropriate consequences in all ways, as much as possible. By doing that, we are allowing judges to take into consideration a wide variety of potential reasons and rationales as to why a crime might have been committed in the first place, to contrast that with a number of other variables and to come up with a fair and just disposition.
Upon reflection, we might see that we do not necessarily have a perfect system. I do not believe any society in the world has a perfect system. At times there is a need to make changes to improve the system we have. In my short term in Ottawa, legislation has passed that has not necessarily taken a fair approach in the delivery of justice, but on occasion legislation with a great deal of merit in what it is hoping to achieve has passed and would receive fairly wide support.
It is the principle of what is being proposed that makes me fairly comfortable in saying that it is, in essence, a good bill that deserves support. I anticipate that it will likely pass.
Hopefully it will make a difference going forward, as I suspect it will, because, as I say, we are talking about a type of crime that makes a lot of people feel quite vulnerable because of its very nature.