Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to note that I will be sharing my time with the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin.
When we come to this place, we all come with certain reasons behind what we want to accomplish. One, of course, is to improve the lives of Canadians. Another is sometimes to fix things that we believe are terribly wrong with our systems. For me, this legislation fits in the latter category of fixing something that we believe is terribly wrong.
Many people have been fortunate, in their careers and their lives, and they have never been touched by this particular issue. They have been spared the heartbreaking view of what happens to these young children when they are violated. In my career, I spent many years working in a rural emergency department. When I rise both to speak to this bill and to vote, it will be with the victims that I will be making that vote. I will give just a few small examples before I actually talk about the technical aspects of this bill.
I remember very clearly the 14-month-old who came in with incredibly bruised genitalia and a fractured femur. I remember three little girls. I remember the day their dad died in an accident. Two years later their mother remarried someone who then began to abuse those little girls. I remember a rape kit we had to pull out of the cupboards for a 12-year-old, barely pubescent young girl who had gone out and had a few drinks for the first time in her life. She had overdone it, and had then been brutally raped.
I remember a nurse who worked the night shift. One day she went home and her daughter revealed that the step-dad had been climbing into the beds at night, and the absolute trauma and the guilt that this nurse experienced as she dealt with the fact that she had married someone who was abusing her most precious possessions.
These are just some examples of what I experienced in my career. However, I was only representing a small area of this country, a small area of the province in terms of providing services. We have to recognize that these things are being repeated across the country many times over. Some are being reported; some are not.
I have witnessed young girls going into the criminal system to share their testimony and not meeting that burden of guilt that was required, and seeing the person who had violated them go free.
I hope this is a personal issue that everyone can stand up and support.
I need to talk about the specifics of this bill. It set out to recognize the devastating impacts such crimes have on the lives of the victims. It ensures that justice is not only done for each victim, but also for each crime by requiring sexual offenders to serve sentences that are proportional to the degree of harm inflicted on each victim.
What is it going to do? It is going to increase penalties for sexual offences committed against children. This includes increasing existing maximum and mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for certain offences, as well as ending sentence discounts for child pornography offences where there are multiple child victims. Bill C-26 also increases the penalties for breach of a number of supervision orders. These amendments are necessary to protect the community from offenders who deliberately persist in reoffending, and this despite having been given the privilege of being conditionally released in the community.
Such amendments are not only integral to the protection of our communities, but necessary to incapacitate repeat sex child offenders who choose recidivism over rehabilitation, and continue unlawful conduct over peaceful reintegration into the community.
Again, there is not one of us who as members of Parliament have not had concerned citizens phoning our offices when there is a repeat child offender released into their communities. In many cases I have seen them go on to repeat their crimes. We are all absolutely horrified that the system that we had in place did not actually address those issues.
These proposed amendments would ensure consistency in punishment for breaches of prohibition orders imposed on child sexual offenders, section 161, breaches of probation orders, section 733.1, and breaches of peace bonds, section 811, imposed on individuals feared to be at risk of committing a sexual offence against a child.
In all these cases, offenders would be liable to a maximum of four years imprisonment on indictment and 18 months imprisonment on summary conviction.
The bill would provide the same penalty for a breach of the new prohibition order, section 162.2, created by Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, which can be imposed for the new offence of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. Bill C-13 came into force on March 10, 2015.
Furthermore, Bill C-26 would make it an aggravating factor on sentencing for an offender to commit an offence while on parole, statutory release, or an unescorted temporary absence or while being subject to a conditional sentence order.
The proposed amendments would also ensure that the relevant evidence was available in prosecuting child predators in the case of child pornography.
As a general rule, the spouse of a person accused of most offences cannot testify for the prosecution, even if the person wants to. The exceptions to this rule permit spousal testimony for most child sexual offences and the offence of violence against young persons, but it is important to note that it does not include child pornography offences.
In the case of child pornography, evidence of the accused's spouse is often required to prove the guilt of the accused. For example, the spouse's denial of responsibility for child pornography or a shared home computer may be necessary to prove the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Bill C-26 proposes to amend the Canada Evidence Act to add child pornography to the list of exceptions and to therefore make the spouse competent and compellable to testify for the prosecution.
Bill C-26's proposed reforms also seek to build on existing measures to better protect children in Canada and abroad against sexual abuse by convicted child sex offenders. The bill proposes to establish a new, publicly accessible national database of high-risk offenders convicted of child sexual offences.
Currently, all provinces and territories have the power to advise the public about the release of high-risk offenders. These notifications are made at the discretion of the police, and they contain characteristics about the offender and the nature of the offences committed.
However, such notifications are limited to the jurisdiction and province where they are made. The bill seeks to expand access to all of those local notifications on a national scale. We do not have any boundaries in terms of where people go in Canada. The establishment of such a database would be a great example of a coordinated effort to protect the community against convicted high-risk sex offenders, because it would consolidate existing notifications in one publicly accessible spot.
As I mentioned earlier, a complete and comprehensive response to child sexual exploitation also requires a coordinated effort that encompasses programs, services, and partnerships among key stakeholders, including federal, provincial, and territorial governments, law enforcement agencies, and civil society. In this respect, since 2010, the government has allocated $10.25 million for new or enhanced child advocacy centres to address the needs of child and youth victims of crime.
We obviously have existing criminal prohibitions against child sexual abuse. However, the fact that it has been growing in the last few years at an extraordinary rate, as indicated earlier by my hon. colleague opposite, and the fact that children account for 55% of all victims of police-reported sexual offences, even though they account for only 20% of the Canadian population, is a stark reminder that more must be done.
We must stop such heinous crimes. As such, I urge all members of the House to unanimously support the passage of Bill C-26.