Mr. Speaker, I will be brief, but I wanted to comment on this bill.
In its first form, in May or June of this year, we supported most of the provisions of Bill C-15. We asked that the bill be split to speed things up. It took some time, but we were successful in the end and the bill was split.
There is nothing wrong with the part that we are considering today. There is agreement; many groups have asked for certain changes over the years, including those that are to be found in this part, and we agree with them.
These include the whole issue of sexual exploitation involving the use of the Internet. The criminal code was not responding to today's reality. These sections of the code needed updating and modernizing, and the bill does this. There is no problem adopting these amendments.
The other amendment found in this bill increases the maximum penalty for criminal harassment. If we look at the case law, if we look at what is being done in this field, it becomes clear that we needed to act on adjusting the maximum penalty in this precise case.
Then, they made home invasions an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. That was what the Canadian Police Association and the Fédération des policiers et policières du Québec asked for. There were private members' bills introduced to amend the criminal code in this regard, but they were not passed at all stages. It is understandable that the Bloc Quebecois today supports such an amendment. This is a request by the police, justified by what is happening in home invasions.
Another change is making the disarming or attempted disarming of a police officer a specific offence. Clearly the police argued in favour of this provision. They expressed their point of view. We also heard experts on this question in committee. Although I was not too hot about this idea at the start, I was convinced in committee. It is necessary. Working hard in committee and listening to the witnesses who come forward means we hear interesting points of view that convince us and support our position to support a given bill or clause or not to.
In this case, the witnesses I heard convinced me that we could amend the criminal code and add this offence to it.
The other amendment, which we have already spoken of, is the codification and clarification of applications for review by the Minister of Justice of miscarriages of justice.
I would have liked the minister to be somewhat more attentive to our remarks. We wanted a process different from the one in C-15A, like what they have in Great Britain, on which the government seems to have drawn for its amendments to the criminal code. I would have preferred a much more independent tribunal instead of having the decision come from the Minister of Justice. I am sure that, at some point, the Minister of Justice will be judge and jury in some matter. At that point, the minister would be in an awkward position, and would she make the right decision to correct a miscarriage of justice?
I know that the minister is of good faith and so is everyone else here, but I would have liked something surer for those who have been victims of a miscarriage of justice, so that they could have all the tools to ensure that justice is truly done.
In law, not only must justice be done, it must be seen to be done. I am not sure, given how the minister and the Liberal government opposite drafted these provisions, that the accused will come to the conclusion that justice was done and seen to have been done, particularly when the miscarriage of justice may result from the work of the Department of Justice and it is the Minister of Justice who is called upon to decide whether or not there was indeed a miscarriage of justice.
However, we did support this bill so as to not block it and ensure that it would be passed rather quickly, since the other provisions are not controversial.
It is from that perspective that we are letting this go, but we will take a close look at what will happen and we will be prepared to present amendments later on if we deem appropriate to do so.
The bill also includes a series of reforms and seeks to modernize criminal proceedings regarding the disclosure of evidence and certain rules relating to electronic documents. These things did not exist 20 years ago, but they are now part of our lives. The bill also deals with remote appearances, a plea comprehension inquiry scheme, private prosecutions, the selection of alternate jurors and a restriction on the use of agents. All this is part of a modernizing effort to update and clarify the criminal code. There is no problem and this is why we give our support.
I will conclude by raising a question that came to mind when I was listening to some witnesses. The Canadian Alliance member referred to it earlier. It has to do with the issue of consent regarding sexual relations. The hon. member wants the age of consent to be raised from 14 to 16 years. The argument used by the Canadian Alliance member and by groups such as the Canadian Police Association is that a 14 year old is not mature enough to give his or her consent to a sexual relation with an older person.
Members of the Canadian Alliance and others who want to change the age of consent think that 14 year olds are not sufficiently responsible and mature and are unable to take a decision of this magnitude, i.e. to have sexual relations with an older person, which will have an impact on them for the rest of their life.
But, when it comes to the Young Offenders Act, these same people want the age to be lowered from 18 to 16 or from 16 to 14. They would even like to lower the age of criminality, if possible.
I fail to see how these young people are not sufficiently mature at 14 to make an informed decision about whether or not to consent to sexual relations with an older person, but would be mature enough at the age of 16, or 14 in a criminal case, where they would receive an adult sentence. According to them, at that age adolescents are responsible, they are supposed to know what they are doing and they are old enough to commit a criminal offence and so forth.
Let us have a bit of logic. The position being defended by these groups is not logical when it comes to the age at which adolescents can consent to sexual relations versus the age at which they can be considered young offenders.
This bothered me a bit in committee. I explained how I saw it and I asked witnesses what they thought. They had no answer, because there is none. It is not logical.
Should the age of consent to sexual relations be raised from 14 to 16? I have no firm opinion on this. But I do know that someone under the age of 18 cannot be judged like an adult because he does not have an adult's sense of responsibility.
These are children, adolescents, I realize, not as developed as adults and needing to be treated accordingly. What I am asking the Canadian Alliance and the government as well, as they also seem to be interested in this approach, is to look at the situation very seriously and logically.
The fact that the bill has been divided has made it possible for us to address the problematical parts--as we are doing--that is everything that relates to firearms and cruelty to animals. If we had listened to the government over there, probably the whole thing would have been passed now, and in a rush. Fortunately, they were told to take the time to examine the issue in this House.
The exact same thing is happening with the anti-terrorism bill. Yes, legislation is required, but let us take the time to consider all the ins and outs of the bill properly.
The same things goes for Bill C-15A. I thank the government for having understood, after this was called for repeatedly by the Bloc Quebecois and other opposition parties, that the bill had to be split. They have done so. Today, Bill C-15A will be passed; so much the better. Then we can focus on Bill C-15B and hope that, for that part as well, the Minister of Justice will listen to the opposition and make appropriate amendments.