Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for sharing his time with me today.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill C-26, the tougher penalties for child predators act. Today I am going to focus the bulk of my remarks on the part of Bill C-26 that creates higher penalties for breaches of supervision orders. However, I want to devote a few moments on the other key features of this initiative.
I am a father of three children, and as such, it is important to me to highlight the end goal of Bill C-26: deterring child predators and focusing on the seriousness of child sexual offences. One way we can achieve that is through higher mandatory minimum penalties and higher maximums.
However, one of the reasons I am supporting Bill C-26 is that the amendments also clarify and codify the use of consecutive sentences in child sexual abuse cases. This would ensure not only consistency in application of the law but also justice for each life devastated by an offender's sexual abuse.
The amendments to supervision orders in this bill are yet another facet of this criminal law initiative that would strengthen the protection of children from sexual predators.
Supervision orders empower judges to impose conditions on child sexual offenders or persons who might commit child sexual offences. There are various orders a court can use to ensure the supervision of the offender in the community. These orders include probation orders, peace bonds, and prohibition orders. It is important to understand how each of these orders operates to fully grasp how they would achieve the underlying objective of Bill C-26. The underlying objective is to protect children from sexual predators.
First, probation orders can be imposed where offenders are sentenced to less than two years of imprisonment. They can also be stand-alone orders, and in all cases, they have a maximum duration of three years. These orders can vary substantially in scope. For instance, some conditions, such as keeping the peace, are mandatory, whereas other conditions are left to the discretion of a judge. These conditions can also include requiring the offender to be under house arrest except for predetermined absences, such as employment. These optional conditions must be reasonable, clear, and most importantly, certain. These conditions aim to protect society by preventing recidivism and facilitating the offender's successful rehabilitation and safe re-insertion into the community.
Peace bonds, on the other hand, can be used where there is a reasonable fear that a person will commit a child sexual offence. In fact, section 810.1 of the Criminal Code allows any person, under reasonable grounds, to lay information before a provincial court judge based on a fear that an individual will commit a certain sexual offence against a young person under 14 years of age. A court will order a person to enter into a peace bond if it is convinced, on a balance of probabilities, that the informant's fear is reasonably grounded. Peace bonds can encompass a variety of conditions, including prohibiting an offender from communicating on a computer with young people or attending public places where children could reasonably be expected to be present.
Lastly, prohibition orders allow courts to prohibit the offender from having contact with children where there exists an evidentiary basis for concluding that the offender poses a risk to young children. This prohibition may take different forms, such as a ban from specified places where children are present, restriction on employment involving a position of trust or authority over children, and access to the Internet.
The Criminal Code requires a judge to consider such orders in every case involving an enumerated offence, and they can last for the offender's lifetime.
Maximum penalties for breaches of probation orders, peace bonds, and prohibition orders, referred to collectively as supervision orders, would be increased under Bill C-26. This would ensure that those who violate conditions imposed by the courts to protect children would be held accountable.
Bill C-26 would raise the maximum penalty for breaches of all supervision orders from two to four years on indictment. In addition, it would increase the maximum penalty for breaching prohibition and peace bonds from six months to 18 months on summary conviction. The proposed new maximums would ensure that offenders who breached these supervision orders were liable to the same penalties, regardless of the type of order, according to whether the breach was a prosecuted indictment or a summary conviction.
Furthermore, fines for breaching probation would increase from $2,000 to $5,000. The supervisory aspect of these orders helps to rehabilitate offenders, but, more importantly, ensures the maintenance of a just, peaceful, and safe society.
According to Statistics Canada, a number of studies with a follow-up period of 15 years noted that the average rate of recidivism among sex offenders is about 24%. However, alarmingly, the highest rate for recidivism found in this review was 35.5% for a sample of offenders who sexually offended against children. These offenders were followed for a 23-year period. The source of that information is the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics in a study called “Police-reported sexual offences against children and youth in Canada, 2012”, which was released on May 28, 2014.
It is, therefore, absolutely crucial that serious breaches of these conditions be denounced and deterred. One way that Bill C-26 would protect children is by ensuring that once child sexual offenders are released into the community, a breach of their conditions will result in serious consequences commensurate with the objective that these types of orders are designed to fulfill—namely, the protection of the most vulnerable members of our communities, our children.
For instance, a key component of the sentencing reform in Bill C-26 would ensure that any evidence that an offence was committed while the offender was subject to a conditional sentence, on parole, or while on statutory release would be an aggravating factor in their sentencing. Treating such instances as aggravating factors is necessary to denounce, deter, and punish offenders who deliberately persist in reoffending even after they have been placed under varying forms of supervision.
Such amendments are also necessary to protect the community when rehabilitative and reintegration efforts are clearly not working for these offenders. Increased penalties for those who violate conditions imposed by the courts to protect children would serve two very important functions: first, they would hold offenders accountable; second, they would prevent future harm to vulnerable children. This is especially true in the context of child sexual offences, where breaches of supervision orders may indicate a risk that the offender will re-victimize children. Thus, increasing the minimum and maximum penalties for breach of supervision orders is an important tool that courts can use in appropriate circumstances. Not only would these measures dissuade offenders from committing offences, but they would also separate child sexual predators from society before they commit repeat offences.
Breaching a supervision order is not a trivial offence. For instance, persons subject to probation and prohibition orders have already been processed through the criminal justice system and released on conditions that are intimately intertwined with the alleged or previous offences committed. As such, breaching these orders is serious, because it is concrete acknowledgement of a refusal by that offender to be rehabilitated. We must send a clear message. Such breaches require a clear, proportionate, and dissuasive response.
It is important to remember that these supervision orders have not been imposed in a vacuum. Combined, the amendments in Bill C-26 would send a clear message. We will not allow offenders to commit crimes with impunity while being under community supervision, especially when such breaches put children at risk. Additionally, they would achieve consistency in punishment for all heinous sexual offences against children.
These features of Bill C-26 are important and necessary. As a result, I urge all hon. members of the House to support this bill and its swift passage.