Mr. Speaker, as was pointed out, I did give notice to the Speaker of a request for an emergency debate under Standing Order 52(2). I am seeking leave to propose an emergency debate on the alarming reports of sexual assault in the Canadian Armed Forces.
There is an urgent need for an emergency debate to allow parliamentarians to address this crisis in a substantive way so that substantive action can be taken to determine the extent of the problem and much-needed steps can be taken to prevent future cases.
I want to emphasize the fact that sometimes when emergency debates are proposed, it is suggested that there may be an opposition day on which the issue could be raised. However, there are no opposition days in the following weeks. There are none on the planned agenda of the House, and an emergency debate may well be the only occasion we will have to debate such an important and urgent issue.
It involves a serious matter: victims of sexual assault in the military. We have seen reports that as many as 1,700 assaults per year, or five a day, take place. People in the military need to have confidence that when anything like this happens, their complaints will be taken seriously, that it will not have a negative effect on their careers if they complain, and that the perpetrators will be handled properly and appropriately. That seems to be a big problem.
There is a potential significant loss of confidence that the current government is taking the matter seriously. We need a debate to allow members to talk about this issue and to discuss the possible ways of dealing with it.
There is the fact that we do not have reports that are statutorily required and a whole series of serious issues that cannot be dealt with and answered properly in 35 seconds of question period. Therefore, there is a need for a substantive debate. If it does not happen by way of an emergency debate, it may not be debated until the fall.
These are the reasons it is an emergency. The seriousness of the issue, I think, speaks for itself. We are talking about victims of sexual assault, and there are reports in the media that they are being re-victimized within the military because of improper handling of these matters.
This is a matter that has been ongoing for some time. There were reports of it 16 years ago. We have similar reports today.
Something serious needs to be done. We need to debate the issue here in Parliament, and an emergency debate seems to be the best method of doing that right now.