That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that it have the power to divide Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, into two bills; the first containing the provisions of the Bill with respect to sexual offences against children, and consisting of clauses 10 to 31 and 35 to 38, and the second containing all other provisions of Bill C-10.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present this motion, which I think is extremely important to all Canadians.
Right now we have before the House what is known as an omnibus bill on criminal justice. It is a complex bill consisting of nine separate pieces of legislation. Bill is rather lengthy and complex with over 100 pages dealing with various matters. In fact, the long title of the bill refers to enacting a justice for victims of terrorism act and amending the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other acts. It is complicated because the legislation deals with a number of individual topics.
Our proposal is that the provisions relating to sexual assault and sexual matters relating to children be dealt with separately. The rationale for this is very simple.
The complexity and controversial nature of the entire bill is such that it would take a considerable amount of time for it to get the proper consideration by this House in accordance with the proper form, through committee, third reading, and through the other place, before it became law. There is some urgency with respect to the provisions of this bill in relation to sexual offences against children. That is essentially part 2 of the bill, although we have not included all of this in the instruction.
There is an original act which has to do with terrorism and lawsuits against foreign states. There are particular provisions that deal with sexual offences against children. There are amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, amendments to the Criminal Code in relation to conditional sentences, amendments to the Criminal Records Act, amendments in relation to the international transfer of offenders, amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which are very particular and complex, and amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. It is a very complex bill, some of which has been debated before and some of which has not.
There is a particular reason that sexual offences against children ought to be considered and debated separately. We believe this can be dealt with fairly quickly in the House and also in the other place. The other place has indicated there would be fairly quick passage. I believe these provisions have passed through the other place before. We could anticipate fairly quick passage to make this law within a very short period of time so that prosecutors and police would have the opportunity to make use of it.
There are some provisions of this legislation that we agree are necessary because they add some new offences to the Criminal Code, particularly in the case of sexual offences against children.
There are new provisions which would prohibit, as a new and specific crime, making pornography available to children. Giving pornography and pornographic images to children would be a separate offence which could be prosecuted separately and would not have to involve other activity.
The second new provision that we think is extremely important would make Internet luring an offence. Internet luring as a separate offence is necessary because under the current provisions of the Criminal Code, it is required that there actually be something more than that.
In the case of dealing with someone on the Internet, I think we have all heard of cases where a police officer pretends to be a child in order to be lured into a meeting with a perpetrator. The police officer nabs the perpetrator and is able to charge that person because the person went to a hotel room or place where the person thought a child would be waiting.
These are complicated offences that require a great deal of police resources. They require some sort of a sting, as I discussed, in order to protect children, because children cannot actually be used as the bait for an offence like this. It would be unethical to do so. Therefore, it is difficult to prosecute these types of offences.
In effect, the new offences would be preventive in nature. Police would be able to intercept the types of Internet predators we see all too frequently these days. They would be intercepted before they actually had a chance to make arrangements to meet with a child for sexual purposes. Sometimes it is called “grooming”, where the offender builds a relationship with a child and uses that relationship to take the next step. Criminologists and police officers refer to it as grooming a child for eventual predation. That itself would be an offence.
We believe that is something that ought to be put into law as quickly as possible. There is no requirement for any actual abuse. In fact, this step is normally a preliminary step to sexual offences against children that we see all too often. We want to protect children. The NDP is steadfast in wanting to see the law improved to ensure that children who are potential victims of sexual predators are protected.
People on the other side do not like to hear that because they want to be able to say that the NDP does not support any measures designed to protect children. It is the exact opposite. That is why this motion is being presented. We want this to be part of the bill. It is accepted and sought by many people across the country. There is virtual unanimity throughout the academic and legal communities regarding the necessity for this provision. As well, police officers and prosecutors want the tools to prevent these crimes. As a parent, I am most anxious to see this brought forward as well.
That is in contrast to a lot of the measures in the rest of the bill. This omnibus bill has been called many names and has been roundly criticized as being full of ideologically based measures by experts who have been to the committee already. The committee is studying this. We have already had three meetings. We have heard a number of witnesses. We have heard experts in children's law, the law on young offenders, criminologists and representatives of the Canadian Bar Association who have examined this bill and have said there are serious problems with it.
The short title of this bill is the “safe streets and communities act”, but experts have said that this bill will not make our streets safer, that the measures will increase crime, will lead to greater violent crime and a more unsafe society. That is directly contradictory to the bill's short title and supposed aims of the government. We hear from people that the measures in this bill will lead to longer sentences, more hardened criminals, and less rehabilitation. People will be more likely to reoffend. All those things are going to increase the likelihood of crime, which is the exact opposite of what is intended.
They have been tried in other countries. They have been tried in the United States. We have seen examples of states in the United States that have gone down this road of treating people, who are convicted of offences, with a great deal of severity. They have now come to realize that they have driven up their costs of incarceration enormously, to no greater safety of their communities.
In fact, they are leading to greater crime. Many of these states in the United States are finding ways to change their policies to focus on prevention and rehabilitation and, in some cases, do a massive diversion such as in Texas where its drug courts have the universal appeal of all sides in its legislature there.
I spoke to the reporter who did the story on the prisons in Texas and the plan to divert people from courts to drug rehabilitation programs. He said they were there for several days and were looking around, and fully expected to have a program in which there would be defenders of the current system and opponents. They wanted to present both sides of the story.
It was surprising, to the producers and journalists undertaking the program that was on CBC a couple of weeks ago, that there was only one side of the debate. Everybody, including Republicans, Democrats, judges and police officers, agreed that this approach was costing a fortune. This was in Texas. We are talking about one of the hard line states of the southern U.S. when it comes to criminal justice. There was unanimity there among the political leadership that this was a good idea, that it was saving money, reducing crime with results.
These kinds of debates and questions are being raised in committee. I can assure members that these debates need to take place. There are debates about that aspect of the law. There are debates about the youth criminal justice provisions.
We had a renowned law professor from Queen's University, Nicholas Bala, who has been testifying before parliamentary committees for 20 years. His opinions, expertise, and articles are quoted by courts throughout the land, including the Supreme Court of Canada. He has told us that he supports some of the provisions and the changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act because they are good measures.
However, he has made it very clear that some of these provisions would lead to a greater criminalization of individuals who come before the law under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and, in fact, would lead to greater criminality, more criminals, and less safe communities as a result of the changes that are being proposed in this legislation.
Members can be sure that this very complex so-called omnibus bill deserves to receive great scrutiny through the committees of this House and through the debates in this House for a fair bit of time, for as long as it needs, in order to do a proper job. It is a very complex bill.
On the issues of the relation to civil remedies for terrorism, we had a debate in committee on Tuesday this week. We had an individual who is part of a committee that is opposed to terrorism and an individual whose husband, sadly, was a victim of the 9/11 attack on the twin towers in New York, who testified, talking about the need for this legislation and the need to improve it.
These aspects have to be looked at in terms of what changes need to be made to make these bills effective and work. There needs to be the kind of debate that should take place.
We had the Canadian Bar Association come before us and say that there were serious problems with this bill. Some people like to dismiss the Canadian Bar Association and say, “Oh, they're just defence lawyers”. However, that is not the case. When the Canadian Bar Association came to testify before Parliament, it had a very lengthy presentation of over 100 pages and also an oral presentation. Its response was primarily the work of the Canadian Bar Association national criminal justice section which represents prosecutors and defence lawyers as well as legal academics from every part of Canada.
The Canadian Bar Association is not on one side or the other of a particular paradigm. Its body represents an analysis of this legislation based on the views of Crown prosecutors who prosecute offences throughout the country. It has brought together the views of prosecutors, defence counsel and legal academics throughout the country. Similarly, we had representations from the Barreau du Québec, as well. There were advocates on both sides of the justice divide, both prosecutors and defence counsel, very experienced and learned people who we should hear from.
I am also certain, based on the experience in the past of some of these constituent bills that are part of this, there will be significant debate within the Senate that will see this legislation not back to this House very soon. The plan of the government to have this passed in 100 days from when Parliament began to sit is very unlikely to be met.
What we want to do is put, in the hands of prosecutors and police officers, as soon as possible, the provisions that provide for protection of our children from sexual assaults, from Internet luring, from the use of pornography to groom or to involve children in sexual offences, which are most abhorrent to all citizens of this country. They ought to be given a priority and a special consideration by this House for speedy passage.
I will acknowledge that there are some aspects of the legislation which give me a little trouble. As a lawyer I have strong feelings about mandatory minimum sentences because it fetters the discretion of judges. In some cases the minimum sentences also become maximum sentences, and judges who might be inclined to give a strong sentence because of particular circumstances may be inclined to stick to the minimum mandatory sentence because it is prescribed by law. That is a point that we can debate fully. I have serious reservations about that.
However, for the sake of getting this matter into the hands of prosecutors and police officers for the protection of our children, we want to see this legislation separated out from the existing bill, and then brought before this House so that it can receive speedy passage and be out of here within a matter of days. It could then be sent to the other place and become law very shortly.
It is now near the end of October. I am certain this could be dealt with before the middle of November, and then be law before the end of November, before we break for Christmas. I think that is very likely and very possible.
With the will of the government to co-operate on this particular motion, that could be done for the benefit of all Canadians, particularly for the benefit of the young people who will be protected and hopefully, potentially, saved from sexual assault and sexual abuse. How many? We do not know. It could be 5, 10, 100 or 200. There is an opportunity here to ensure that this bill is put into law as soon as possible.
The rest of the legislation is flawed. It has been called tough on crime, harsh, excessive, and unfair in some cases. Rather than replicating the errors of other places, we could learn from them. However, we cannot have that debate with this flawed bill.
This is an opportunity for this legislation because there is consensus in this House. It has passed before. It has gone through the Senate before. We think that it can pass very quickly. I do not imagine there would be a terrible amount of debate.
I would ask hon. members opposite to support this motion because it is timely, urgent, and can save children from sexual assault.