Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago there were reports that bureaucrats within the Department of Public Safety had recommended that a publicly accessible registry for high-risk sex offenders not move forward. Since those reports came out, we on this side of the House have, quite legitimately, asked the government whether those reports are true and whether the government intends to cancel a publicly accessible registry for high-risk child sexual predators. Despite posing very clear questions to the government on this, we have not received a clear answer to a clear question.
All Canadian parents deserve to know when a high-risk child sexual predator moves into their neighbourhood. Every Canadian deserves an answer from the government as to whether it intends to move forward with this registry.
Let me say at the outset that when we talk about high-risk child sexual predators, we are talking about the worst of the worst. We are talking about people who pose the greatest risk to our children. It is those offenders who would be in a publicly accessible registry. Anyone could go online and get information about those offenders. As my hon. colleague from Niagara Falls mentioned, it was the previous Conservative government that passed legislation to establish this registry.
In response to the legitimate questions we have been asking, the government has come back with two arguments or statements. It has said, first, that there is a national sex offender registry, and second, that when a dangerous sex offender is released from prison, the Correctional Service of Canada informs the police, and the police, if there is a danger, can alert the public.
There is no question that the national sex offender registry is an important tool. To give a previous Liberal government credit, it was under the previous Liberal government that the national sex offender registry was established in 2004. It contains the names of more than 35,000 registered sex offenders. Of the 35,000 or so sex offenders listed in the registry, approximately two-thirds are individuals who committed sex offences against children. The database provides law enforcement with important information, including the names, addresses, whereabouts, and descriptions of sex offenders. That obviously is important for law enforcement so it can undertake investigations and ultimately help facilitate the prosecution of individuals who perpetrate such offences.
The issue with the sex offender registry is that it is not publicly accessible. Yes, it is a tool law enforcement uses, which is fine and well, and that is important. At the same time, parents deserve to know whether a child sexual predator is moving into their neighbourhood. That is where the publicly accessible registry comes into play.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Public Safety have said in the House that nonetheless, the Correctional Service of Canada alerts the police, and the police in turn can alert the public, which, yes, is important for the purpose of public awareness and keeping our communities safe. However, that is limited in the sense that the police notify the public on one day, and often, that is it. If one does not read the newspaper or watch the news that night or goes out of town for a week, it is quite possible that one would have no idea that a high-risk child sexual predator had moved into the neighbourhood. This is why our Conservative government introduced this registry.
The registry would empower parents to go online and check the name of someone who had moved in, see a photo, and maybe check it a few times, not just in passing in a newspaper. The information contained in this registry would be key to keeping our children safe. It is information parents could use to take precautionary measures that could make the difference in keeping a kid safe from a high-risk sexual predator. Yes, there are measures to inform the public, but this would add to them. It would give parents another tool. The real question is what the government has against giving parents an additional tool.
I think the Liberals owe it to Canadians, if they are not going to move ahead with the registry, to provide a clear and cogent explanation. However, if they agree, as we agree, that this would be a benefit, then it is imperative that they step up to the plate and provide funding so that we can get this registry implemented at the earliest opportunity so that high-risk sex offenders can be identified and children can be kept safe.
Unfortunately, the government, until now, has instead tried to pass the buck, engaging in the blame game and saying that it was the previous Conservative government that passed a bill but did not provide funding. Well, as the hon. member for Niagara Falls pointed out, the legislation that would have enabled this registry received royal assent on the last day the House sat before the 2015 election.
It has now been two budget cycles, and the current government has not provided one single cent toward this registry. Talk about a lack of priorities, especially for a government that spends like drunken sailors. It spends billions and billions of dollars on all kinds of things, but it cannot be bothered to provide the funding to create a registry and make available a tool for parents to keep their kids safe.
However, there is always an opportunity to take a step back and do the right thing. Stop stonewalling, stop the blame game, and just get on with it and get this registry established.