Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-314, to amend the Canada Transportation Act to make it more difficult for adults and parents who do not have custody to abduct children by means of air transportation and requiring all adult passengers travelling with young persons to produce written proof of the consent of their parents or of other persons who have lawful custody over them.
Unfortunately, while I support fully the intent of the bill and its objective of trying to reduce the incidence of child abduction and kidnapping, I cannot support the proposed amendment to the Canada Transportation Act.
It is a far too sweeping and heavy-handed amendment that would impose onerous obligations on Canadian airline carriers and be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to effectively implement. The effect could be that anyone attempting to travel with a child, even a parent in an intact family travelling with their own child, would be required to provide written proof of consent and prevented from getting on the plane if this is not produced. To someone unaware of this requirement, a planned trip at Christmas with their child to visit out of town family could end up being a nightmare.
This is a bill that is trying to accomplish something that the government takes very seriously. Unfortunately, sometimes children are taken by a parent, relative or caregiver without the consent or permission of the other parent. This can occur in the context of a divorce or separation, for example, and may be done for a variety of reasons, including revenge or a legitimate concern about the child's safety.
The 2001 annual report on Canada's missing children indicates that in 2001 there were 387 parental abductions. In some of these cases where the children are reported missing they are only missing temporarily because a parent is late in returning the child from an access visit. In other cases children remain missing for many years. Although children are rarely physically harmed by their parent, there is no doubt that these actions have a detrimental effect on the well-being of the children involved and, in some cases, are extremely traumatic for the child.
This government is strongly committed to protecting children from all forms of abduction and kidnapping. The “Our Missing Children” program is a key example of this commitment. Five government departments—the RCMP, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Justice Canada work in partnership to prevent adudctions, locate and recover missing children.
Although each department has its own function, the “Our Missing Children” program operates as one unit. The National Missing Children Services is Canada’s clearinghouse for reports of missing children and provides investigative services. It is linked to all Canadian police and related agencies through the Canadian Police Information Centre, and most foreign police agencies through Interpol.
These connections allow investigators to link and trace quickly and expeditiously the whereabouts of an abductor or missing child. In addition, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency places border alerts and detects and recovers missing children at international airports and border crossings.
The program also provides a photo-aging service, as well as investigative research and ongoing development and distribution of information related to missing children for parents, children and police. It has connections with not for profit search agencies and collectively provides a unique and powerful program to prevent, locate and recover missing children.
I mention all this to reinforce the point that the government is already doing many things to address the problem of child abduction and kidnapping; important things that are well planned, well coordinated and effectively assist in protecting children from abduction and kidnapping.
As I said, unfortunately, while I support fully the intent of the bill and its objectives, I cannot support the proposed amendment. One of the problems is that the provision is too vague and is directed to the airline companies that hold a licence to operate a domestic air service. The bill does not provide any guidelines about how this should or could be done. It does not explain what form written proof of consent should take. It does not indicate how this provision should be practically enforced. In fact, each licensed air carrier could implement this requirement differently.
Many different questions arise about the bill. What proof of consent would be required if one parent is deceased? What costs would be associated with implementing this requirement and who would bear those costs? Would there be a liability associated with not doing so? This statutory amendment only impacts on domestic air carriers and it might not in fact even prevent a true abduction. The abductor could simply choose a different non-Canadian airline.
Reasonable measures to protect children from abduction are already in place. The Canadian passport system, for example, already imposes specific requirements respecting the issuing of passports for children, to respond to concerns about parental child abductions.
The “Our Missing Children” program that I mentioned earlier provides many examples of law enforcement measures, programs and tools that can and do work to address the problem of child abduction.
Our missing children program, which I mentioned earlier, provides many examples of law enforcement measures, programs and tools that can and do work to address the problem of child abductions. I do not think, however, that amending the Canada Transportation Act is the right response. I cannot support Bill C-314.