Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for London North Centre for introducing this well-intentioned piece of legislation. Bill C-242 seeks to establish a Criminal Code offence for acts of torture committed by non-state actors. As the hon. member for London North Centre pointed out, the only section of the Criminal Code that establishes a specific offence for torture is section 269.1, and section 269.1 only deals with acts committed by state actors.
At the outset it is important to acknowledge, as the hon. member did, that those who commit torturous acts for non-state actors are not given immunity in Canada. On the contrary, there are any number of Criminal Code offences that apply to torturous acts, depending on the nature and the scope of the act. Those sections include offences such as aggravated assault, attempted murder, kidnapping, and so on.
The offences that are presently on the books in the Criminal Code are long-established offences. They are well understood. There is a wide body of case law. Those convicted of any one of those offences may spend a very long time in jail. Take, for example, aggravated assault. Someone convicted of aggravated assault may spend 14 years in jail. In the most serious of cases, someone convicted may be designated a dangerous offender, rendering that individual ineligible for parole. Being designated as a dangerous offender is tantamount to being sentenced to life in prison.
That is precisely what happened in the case of the Calgary man to whom the hon. member alluded, who had committed horrendous acts of torture. I will not mention that man's name in the House because it is unworthy of being mentioned in the House or in any other public forum. The fact is that the man took someone for two years and confined, beat, burned, and starved that person. That heinous, despicable individual was charged and convicted and designated as a dangerous offender and will very likely spend the rest of his natural life behind bars, where he belongs.
I mention that simply to say that there are laws on the books at present; and in general, it is my observation that they are largely working. However, the hon. member for London North Centre says that the laws on the books just are not good enough and that torture is a specific crime worthy of a specific Criminal Code offence.
All decent Canadians find torture to be abominable. Torture is vile, inhumane, and evil. The victims of torture, those who suffer at the hands of their torturers, endure physical and emotional pain that is probably unimaginable. They live with that legacy likely for the rest of their lives. To be tortured is tantamount to a life sentence for victims.
When the hon. member for London North Centre says the current laws are not good enough, I take it that he has a point. We, as parliamentarians, have a duty to ensure that the laws on the books do justice by holding perpetrators of heinous crimes accountable and do justice for the victims so that they can begin the process of healing.
Therefore, it is on that basis that I believe that Bill C-242 deserves to go to the next step in the legislative process, to committee, for further review, further study, and further amendment. I want to thank the hon. member for London North Centre for acknowledging that, as with all bills brought before the House in the early stages, there are often modifications and amendments that need to be made to improve the bill.
This is not a perfect bill. In fact, there are areas with which I have some concerns. For example, the definition of torture in Bill C-242 is a different definition from the definition of torture under section 269.1 of the Criminal Code. The definition in section 269.1 of the Criminal Code is the same definition that is provided in article 1 of the United Nations convention against torture. The definition in Bill C-242, as I read it at least, seems to be more restrictive. Additionally, the sentencing in Bill C-242 is different from the sentencing under section 269.1.
We have a situation where, if Bill C-242 passed in its current form, we could have two different definitions of torture in the Criminal Code, two different tests for torture in the Criminal Code, and two different sentences under the Criminal Code, depending on whether the torturous act were committed by a state or non-state actor. That is a problem.
However, as I say, I will support this bill so that it can move forward, because it is a well-intentioned bill and, as the hon. member says, the victims of torture deserve that we ensure that the criminal justice system and the Criminal Code fully provide the remedies that are necessary to hold perpetrators of those crimes fully accountable.