Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this government bill, the short title of which is the tougher penalties for child predators act, which does not make Canadians any safer but does make the penalties longer and more arduous for those who commit these crimes.
I would say at the outset that we support this bill and will be supporting it at second reading in order to study it at committee. We need the ability at committee to determine whether the provisions in this bill would make Canadians safer. We need the ability to hear from experts in the criminal justice system, experts on sexual crimes, and experts in the medical and psychological systems to determine whether this kind of approach is an effective way to deter crime and treat criminals and to make sure that this kind of crime goes down and becomes less of a burden on Canadian society.
Since this Parliament began, we have noted that when the Conservatives become tired of something or when they determine, for some reason unto themselves, that they wish to end debate, they institute time allocation. As this bill was introduced first in February, nine months ago, we hope that time allocation will not be necessary. It is entirely within the government's control to determine when this bill will be debated. The government controls that agenda. To suggest that we have had enough time, when we have only debated it on a couple of occasions since it became a government bill, is a phoney and unbelievable approach, so we hope that will not happen.
Because this is an important measure and issue, we also hope that at committee, there will be lots of time to hear from lots of witnesses who can talk to us about what changes to this bill may be necessary. We also hope the Conservatives will listen to those witnesses at committee and to the opinions of the experts in the field about what needs to change in this bill.
We have also noticed an alarming tendency on the part of the Conservatives to suggest that only changes they agree with are changes worth making and that any changes proposed by any member of any opposition party are absolutely not to be included in any bill. Their tendency in everything, unless there is a clerical error, is that they are right, without any kind of criticism on the part of the opposition parties.
The NDP has a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of a sexual nature against children. That goes without saying. That has been our policy and our practice. What we would rather do is prevent them. Prevention of crimes against children is obviously the most important thing we should be doing. If it can be shown that increasing penalties, which is what this bill essentially does, would somehow prevent crimes against children, that would be great. I would love for that to be the case. I would want to hear what the experts have to say, but up to this point, that has not been the case.
Clearly, we have seen a government whose approach has been to increase penalties, to increase jail time, to introduce mandatory minimums, to introduce longer maximums, and to introduce a period of time spent in jail as a way of protecting Canadians.
All the people who are convicted of these crimes will get out. They will all be released into society. Unless and until appropriate medical and psychological treatment is given to these individuals while in prison and beyond, we will have done nothing to make Canadian children safer by introducing mandatory minimums.
The facts speak for themselves. Since 2006, there have been new mandatory minimum prison sentences for seven existing Criminal Code offences, including assault, assault with a weapon, and aggravated assault where the child is under 16. The government has made it illegal for anyone to provide sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an offence against that child; made it illegal to use computers or other means of telecommunication to agree with or make arrangements with another person to commit a sexual offence against a child; strengthened the sex offender registry; increased the age of protection, the age at which a young person can legally consent to sexual activity, from 14 to 16 years of age; put in place legislation to make the reporting of child pornography by Internet service providers mandatory; and strengthened the sentencing and monitoring of dangerous offenders.
These are all acts that have been taken up by the government since it came into power in 2006. What is the effect of longer sentences and more minimum sentences and of introducing new crimes to the Criminal Code? The effect has been that the crime rate has actually gone up for these offences.
The Minister of Justice stated, on supplementary estimates, that sexual offences against children has increased 6% over the past two years. According to Statistics Canada, that is pretty much the only category of crime that has gone up in the past years. In fact, in the case of sexual violations against children, luring with a computer rose 30% in 2013. Sexual exploitation rose 11% in 2013.
I am not the expert who needs to testify at the committee on what these effects will be, but I can see with my own eyes, from the evidence the minister brought to the supplementary estimates and from the evidence that appears to be in the Statistics Canada reporting, that the Conservatives' actions to date have had a negative impact on the number of crimes of a sexual nature being reported by children.
If one bashes one's head against the wall and it hurts, does one keep doing it? Does one actually keep taking the same wrong-headed approach every time, thinking things will be different? Does one keep introducing more mandatory minimums or longer jail terms and think it will be different? That is one of the things we hope to discuss at committee. One of the things we expect the experts will tell us is that it is not necessarily so.
What is necessary, both in prison and after, is treatment, both psychological and medical, of the individuals to properly return them to society, because they are going to be returned to society. It is not good enough to just say that we will keep watching them. That may make the Conservatives feel good. It does not make me feel good to know that individuals who need treatment are not getting it.
I am the father of seven children and the grandfather of four. The four grandchildren are young Canadians under the age of 15. I do not want them facing an increase in child exploitation. I do not want them to feel less safe in Canadian society as they get older. I want them to feel more safe. If the actions of the government do not do anything to make them more safe, then we are doing something wrong.
We have seen the government do other things that make Canadian children less safe. We want to make sure, when we study and debate this bill, both here and in committee, that we are doing things to it to correct the mistakes the Conservatives have made in the past. We want to actually make a world in which children can feel safe and are safe, not one in which the Conservatives can go to a fundraiser and say, “Look at me, I have just increased the mandatory minimums for sexual offences”, if, in fact, the rate of sexual offences goes up.
No one wants to be a victim. No one wants their children to be victims. If we cannot prevent the crimes in the first place and prevent recidivism by treating these people once we have found them, then we have not done our society a justice, and we have not done our children a justice. We will not have corrected the wrongs to our society.
I look forward to questions from my colleagues.