Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely pleased to be here to speak to Bill C-26.
I want to take a moment before I begin to say that I know that many of us in the House are passionate about these very difficult subjects. As I was asking a question earlier of the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, there were some unkind things said by her about whether I deserve to be in government.
I have almost 19 years of police work behind me. I intend to go back to police work. I spent four and a half years in the child abuse unit. I assisted with more autopsies of children than I ever want to remember. I have seen horrific injuries that these children, those who lived, will live with for the rest of their lives. I have worked on every single one of the crime and justice bills put forward by our Conservative government, and I am proud to say that these are measures that will continue to protect Canadians.
I believe that my voters are the ones who decide whether I belong here in government, just as her voters decide. At the point where this young MP realized that what she said was inappropriate, she did come over to me and apologize. I believe it is a measure of character, when people say something publicly they want to retract, that they actually do so. I challenged her to do so publicly so that my voters understand that what she said was not very kind and that she did not mean it, at which point she refused to do so.
I am offended by the fact that a young girl who has come to this place to help her constituents would attack other members when we are talking about a bill that we are all passionate about. I want to mention that, because I want to give her the opportunity to show her sincerity in apologizing.
Now I want to talk about the bill, which will, in fact, get the support of many members in the House, including members of the NDP, the Liberals, and some of our independent members. For that, I want to thank them sincerely, because it is probably one of the most important bills we will see passed through the House in my time here.
One of the highest priorities of our government has been made clear since we were elected in 2006, and that was to tackle crime. We all know that law-abiding Canadians expect and rightfully deserve to live in a country where they feel safe in their homes and in their communities. Canadians want to know that their children are protected from sexual offenders, whether online or in the streets of their communities and neighbourhoods.
While law-abiding Canadians believe in the importance of rehabilitation for offenders, as do I, they also believe that the punishment should fit the crime. Our government agrees. This is what has guided our strong actions since 2006.
Since that time, our government has put forward a number of important measures to protect the vulnerable and to hold offenders accountable. We have toughened sentencing and bail for things like serious gun crimes. We have strengthened the sentencing and monitoring of dangerous, high-risk offenders. We have ensured that murders connected to organized crime are treated automatically as first-degree murders. We have imposed mandatory jail time for drive-by or reckless shootings. We have also established longer periods of parole ineligibility for multiple murders. We have abolished the faint-hope clause that allowed early parole for murderers. We ended the practice of giving two-for-one credit for time served in pretrial custody. We ended the practice of granting early parole to white collar criminals and other non-violent offenders. We also removed pardon eligibility for child sex offenders.
We have also worked hard to prevent crime and to support victims. For example, we established the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to provide information on victims' rights and services for victims, to receive complaints, and to raise awareness of victims' concerns among policy-makers and in the justice system. We established the youth gang prevention fund, which provides support for successful community programs to help at-risk youth avoid involvement in gangs and criminal activity.
Our government has introduced legislation to address online criminal behaviour, including cyberbullying. While this legislation is aimed at protecting all Canadians, it is predominantly our youth who fall prey to this type of online crime.
These are just a few examples of what our government has accomplished for the good of all law-abiding Canadians. However, we know that more can be done, especially to protect our most vulnerable, our children. The bill before us today is aimed specifically at doing just that.
Before I expand on the proposed legislation, I will give a bit of background on the national sex offender registry. In 2004, the Sex Offender Information Registration Act came into force, allowing for the creation of a database containing information, such as the physical description, name, address, and place of employment of convicted sex offenders across Canada. The national sex offender registry data base is administered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and used by police across Canada to help prevent and investigate crimes of a sexual nature. Indeed, I remember very well using it in my time as a police officer. The registry is a shared initiative with the provinces and territories and is accessible to police forces across the country. Inclusion in the registry is based on conviction for a range of sex offences and not determined by an offender's risk level.
In 2010, our government introduced significant legislative reforms to strengthen the national sex offender registry and the DNA data bank to better protect our children and communities from sexual offenders. These reforms included amendments to the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, the Criminal Code, the International Transfer of Offenders Act, and the National Defence Act.
With these amendments, there was automatic inclusion into and mandatory DNA sampling of convicted sex offenders in the national sex offender registry, and an expansion of the registry to include its use for the prevention of sexual crimes, and not just their investigation. In this regard, police were permitted to access the data base for consulting, disclosing, and matching information, and for verifying compliance, and we also included vehicle plate numbers. Registration of sex offenders convicted abroad was included, and parallel amendments to ensure that the reforms apply to those convicted of sex offences through the military justice system were also added.
Those amendments, which came into force the following year, had widespread support from victims' families, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, and the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.
As of October 2013, there were approximately 36,000 sex offenders in the registry. Sadly, 24,000 of those individuals had a conviction for a child sex offence. That is why I am pleased to speak to legislative amendments that are aimed at protecting our most vulnerable from society's most heinous.
As I think about Bill C-26, I think about many of the investigations I took part in. If only I had had the strength of the amended sex offender registry when I was in the child abuse unit, some of those crimes might have been prevented. I am so thrilled and so proud to be part of a government that saw wisdom in allowing police officers to use that sex offender registry in a preventative way.
I want to share with members some of the cases I worked on which the proposed act would help with.
One case I worked on had 28 victims, all between the ages of 12 and 17. They were mainly boys who were forced into prostitution and sexually abused for years. Those boys, even though they had to go through the court system and to testify, never felt the justice that they should have been afforded, because the offenders who were found guilty were sentenced to such short time that the kids felt they had been betrayed.
Allowing us now to take every child into consideration, to make sure that every child matters by ensuring that the sentences for offences are appropriate and consecutive, would provide victims with the confidence that my NDP members have mentioned is lacking. I know this would assure our victims that there is hope and that the work they are doing in the criminal justice system to prevent others from being offended against will be improved, and that it will be respected and appreciated.
I speak on behalf of the many police officers across the country who will appreciate these changes. I even speak on behalf of offenders, who cannot bring themselves to get the help they need outside of an institution where they would be able to get the programs necessary to prevent further offences. I speak on behalf of the mothers whose children have been offended against. I speak on behalf of my own children who watched as their mother was heavily affected by many of these cases.
I hope that all members here will live up to their commitments and vote in favour, unanimously, to pass this very important legislation.