The House resumed from February 25 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Newton—North Delta.
I must say that I never thought it would be a full month before I had the opportunity to finish three minutes of my remarks on Bill C-26.
As I stated in February, this is an issue that affects all of us. It is impossible to imagine that anybody in society supports the kinds of offenders we are discussing. I will also remind the House that these predators do not just prey on young people; they prey on all people.
As I mentioned in the first part of my speech, I worked at Probation and Parole Services in Ontario for 13 years. My daughter and her partner are correctional officers at the Roy McMurtry Youth Centre and work mostly with level one offenders. I know from first-hand experience the importance of rehabilitation and prevention, and how it allows us to better deal with the reintegration of individuals who are eventually released back into the general population.
New Democrats are not opposed to this legislation, but have concerns that need to be addressed in this process to ensure we are pursuing the right measures while also providing the tools to ensure it will actually be effective. This is important because the government's record to date has given us crime legislation, but has shown a weakness when it comes to providing the resources needed to do the job properly. The bill is a perfect example of that.
As we debated this a month ago, we had only just learned how more than $10 million earmarked for the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre went unused. Therefore, we found ourselves debating legislation to better deal with sex offenders, which is extremely important, but also digesting the fact that the money allocated to do some of that for initiatives that were already in place was left on the table by the government.
Cynics will ask if that was intentional. If that is how one builds a surplus these days, I guess that is the way the government likes to go. Surely, being tough on crime should amount to more than just uttering the phrase.
I am reminded of that old TV commercial with the catch phrase, “Where's the beef?” It is important that the Canadian public understands that about the current government and it is probably more important that we look out for that kind of mixed commitment when it comes to dealing with these offenders.
I will close by reminding the House that research shows that treatment of sex offenders does make a difference, that sex offenders who receive treatment are less likely to reoffend. In fact, offenders who do not receive treatment reoffend at a rate of 17%. For those who have received treatment, the number drops to 10%.
While New Democrats will be supporting the legislation, we would like to see the money earmarked for finding offenders spent and we would like to see an honest attempt at rehabilitation that will ultimately help protect potential future victims as these offenders re-enter society.
As I indicated, it is important to invest in resources to ensure that when offenders are actually released into the community, the proper treatment and rehabilitation processes are in place. It is not by cutting those services that we will be able to be successful.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill
We are talking about a very serious issue. I can tell members that as a parent, mother, grandmother and as a teacher, I take this issue very seriously, as I am sure does every other member in this House. There is nothing that is more offensive or heinous than the impact of sexual exploitation of children. I am sure, whether one sits on this side or that side of the House, all of us are impacted by this greatly.
During my years as a teacher, I had to deal with some pretty sensitive and horrible situations. In that context, there is absolutely nothing that is more gut wrenching then when a child reports a sexual assault molestation. As a teacher and counsellor, I took that very seriously, and the pain stays for a long time. In a similar way, as a parent, one cannot imagine the pain or even the thought of the sexual molestation of one's child. It causes very deep, unimaginable pain.
On this side of the House, as I hope on all sides of the House on this issue, we take this issue very seriously. We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual offences against children.
I am so proud of my party that it has taken this position, as it has held this position for a long time. It is because of that, that we are supporting the bill before us, but at the same time acknowledging that it contains deficiencies. It is not perfect. We are disappointed that the bill does not go further by offering truly effective measures to protect children and keep our communities safe.
I am hoping that not all of my colleagues here have had to deal with instances of serious sex offences in their ridings. We had one in September 2014. It shook the city of Surrey when 17-year-old Serena Vermeersch went missing and then she was found. A high-risk sex offender was charged. Surrey RCMP Chief Fordy said:
Serena should be at Sullivan Heights [her school] having a laugh with classmates and thinking about graduation. Sadly that is not the case. These types of crimes galvanize our community and touch them in an incredible way.
Even today, every time I think of Serena, my heart goes out to her family, friends, neighbours, and the whole Surrey community because I know the pain and anguish everyone went through.
As I said, we will be voting in favour of the bill, but once again, it seems that the government is really into optics. Here we have another bill that purports to do something, but then it is missing or lacking the resources that are needed in order to actually implement it.
It is very difficult for service providers when we as parliamentarians pass legislation and want them to carry out and enforce the new laws we make, but we do not give them the tools they need.
I am sure many of them are absolutely sick to death of hearing us or others, like their employers, telling them to do more with less. In the conversations I have had with RCMP members and other front-line service providers, it is very difficult for them to do more with less. They are feeling really stretched.
When we look at legislation like this, which purports to seriously address sexual offences against minors and our children, we really need look at where we were and what we have done. Ever since the Conservatives, and even the Liberals, have been in power, many pieces of legislation have been passed. At justice committee, the stated that sexual offences against children had increased 6% over the past two years. This is quite staggering. This is after the Conservative government has taken many steps.
We need to listen to experts and informed opinion. We need to ask if some of the repressive measures that have been taken so far are working. Obviously, they are not. Are the resources there? As well as punishment, what are we doing in the area of rehabilitation and healing? What are we doing to support those who are the victims?
This is such a sensitive area. I do not want to politicize it.
We also have to ensure that the RCMP, which we charge with responsibility for much of this area, has the resources for a registry and budgets to support victims. Just having nice words on a piece of paper to say that we are all for victims and that we will provide support for victims does not make it happen.
I can remember the NDP fighting very hard for the Circles of Support and Accountability program, which was real and tangible. It was being used very effectively. Here is a quote from Steve Sullivan:
—the federal government recently announced it was cutting the measly $650,000 in funding Corrections Canada provides. CoSA also receives funding from the National Crime Prevention Centre; that's also set to end this fall. In total, the program costs $2.2 million a year.
Like most community-based victim services, CoSA is a fairly cheap program. It has 700 volunteers across the country; they meet with offenders after their release, help them find jobs and places to live, meet with them regularly for coffee. They support offenders as they start to live normal lives, ones that don't involve new victims. They hold them accountable.
The Conservative government left money unspent when it came to child protection. I get so offended when it calls itself champions of protecting our children.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in support of Bill , the tougher penalties for child predators act. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
Bill is a part of the government's continuing effort to ensure that child sexual offences result in sentences of imprisonment that denounce the heinous nature of these crimes. We hear the opposition members question the necessity of this bill in light of amendments that this government made in the past, especially those enacted by Bill , the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
The Safe Streets and Communities Act was a good step in the right direction, and Bill proposes to build on those reforms to fully recognize the devastating impact that these crimes have on the lives of victimized children.
We have heard criticism particularly directed at the effectiveness of mandatory minimum penalties in achieving this objective. A brief discussion about the current sentencing regime in the Criminal Code is warranted in order to explain the necessity of the proposed reforms.
The Criminal Code states that the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to the respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society.
In order to achieve this fundamental purpose, a sentence may have the following objectives: denunciation, deterrence, separation of the offender from society when necessary; rehabilitation of the offender; providing reparation for the harm done to the victim or community; the promotion of a sense of responsibility in offenders; and the acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and the community.
It is important to note that a just sentence does not have to reflect all of these sentencing objectives, but only those that are essential to achieve the fundamental purpose of sentencing.
In sentencing offenders for sexual offences committed against children, section 718.01 of the Criminal Code directs courts to consider denunciation and deterrence as the paramount sentencing objectives. How can we as legislators ensure that primary importance is also given to these objectives for these types of crimes?
Both social denunciation of a crime and the deterrence of criminals are achieved in our laws in two ways. First, maximum terms of imprisonment send a clear signal of what punishment is proportionate for the worst offender who commits a crime in the worst circumstances. Second, mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment represent the lowest punishment that we as a society consider important for certain serious crimes.
By increasing both minimum terms of imprisonment and maximum terms of imprisonment for certain sexual offences committed against children, Bill focuses on denunciation and deterrence and thereby ensures that sentences imposed contribute to a just, peaceful and safe society.
The fundamental objective of a sentence can only be achieved if the sentence imposed is just. According to the Criminal Code, a just sentence is one that is proportionate to the degree of responsibility of the offender and the gravity of the offence. In determining a just sentence, a court must consider the sentencing principles described in the Criminal Code. For example, a sentence must be increased to account for any aggravating factors relating to the offender or the offence.
Two of the listed aggravating factors in subsection 718(a) of the Criminal Code play an important role in child sexual cases.
First, paragraph 718.2(a)(ii.1) of the Criminal Code directs courts to treat the fact that an offender, in committing the offence, abused the person under the age of 18 years of age as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
Second, paragraph 718.2(a)(iii) of the Criminal Code directs the fact of the offender in committing the offence abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim also be considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
Both these aggravating factors further indicate that the significant punishment as proposed by Bill is justifiable for child predators.
Another important contribution of Bill rests with the proposed reforms that relate to the imposition of concurrent and consecutive sentences. These amendments would clarify and codify applicable rules in situations where an offender would be sentenced for multiple offences, whether committed against the same victim or not.
Apart from the explicit reference to mandatory consecutive sentences in the context of terrorism acts, criminal organization offences and the use of a firearm in the commission of the offence, the general sentencing principles found in subsection 718.3(4) of the Criminal Code regarding consecutive and concurrent sentences only offer limited guidance to courts.
Bill proposes to improve on this by, among other things, directing courts to consider ordering that the terms of imprisonment for offences arising out of separate events, or a separate series of events, be served consecutively to one another.
This represents a codification of the rules developed by courts over the years. Courts will generally order that sentences be served consecutively unless they are committed as part of the same event or series of events, or as some have described it, as part of a criminal transaction. Where several offences are committed as part of the same criminal transaction, the courts will generally determine what is a proportionate sentence for the most serious offence committed and order that the other offences be served concurrently. However, where an offence committed as part of the same criminal transaction is gratuitous or dangerous, courts will generally consider ordering that the sentences be served consecutively to discourage offenders from committing serious offences with impunity.
This approach is codified in Bill by directing courts to consider ordering consecutive sentences in situations where one of the offences was committed either on judicial interim release or while the accused was fleeing from a peace officer.
The totality principle represents the final step in the determination of whether sentences of imprisonment should be served consecutively. This sentencing principle, described in paragraph 718.2(c) of the Criminal Code, prevents courts from ordering that terms of imprisonment be served one after the other if the combined sentence is unduly long or harsh. Where the combined sentence is, in the court's opinion, unduly long or harsh, it may order that certain terms of imprisonment be served concurrently instead of one after the other.
I understand that in ordering concurrent sentences in such cases, courts intend to craft a combined sentence that is proportionate to the overall responsibility of the offender. However, in the context of sexual offences committed against children, this approach translates into a sentence discount for the offender.
To address this problem, Bill proposes that sentences of imprisonment for child pornography offences be served consecutively to any sentence imposed at the same time for a contact child sexual offence, and in cases of multiple victims, that sentences imposed at the same time for contact child sexual offences committed against one victim be served consecutively to those imposed for contact child sexual offences committed against any other victim.
Requiring that these terms of imprisonment be served consecutively to one another would send a clear message that every sexual offence committed against children is serious and is clearly unacceptable. These amendments will also send a clear and unequivocal signal that a proportionate sentence is one that acknowledges that every child victim counts.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for sharing his time with me today.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill , the tougher penalties for child predators act. Today I am going to focus the bulk of my remarks on the part of Bill that creates higher penalties for breaches of supervision orders. However, I want to devote a few moments on the other key features of this initiative.
I am a father of three children, and as such, it is important to me to highlight the end goal of Bill : deterring child predators and focusing on the seriousness of child sexual offences. One way we can achieve that is through higher mandatory minimum penalties and higher maximums.
However, one of the reasons I am supporting Bill is that the amendments also clarify and codify the use of consecutive sentences in child sexual abuse cases. This would ensure not only consistency in application of the law but also justice for each life devastated by an offender's sexual abuse.
The amendments to supervision orders in this bill are yet another facet of this criminal law initiative that would strengthen the protection of children from sexual predators.
Supervision orders empower judges to impose conditions on child sexual offenders or persons who might commit child sexual offences. There are various orders a court can use to ensure the supervision of the offender in the community. These orders include probation orders, peace bonds, and prohibition orders. It is important to understand how each of these orders operates to fully grasp how they would achieve the underlying objective of Bill . The underlying objective is to protect children from sexual predators.
First, probation orders can be imposed where offenders are sentenced to less than two years of imprisonment. They can also be stand-alone orders, and in all cases, they have a maximum duration of three years. These orders can vary substantially in scope. For instance, some conditions, such as keeping the peace, are mandatory, whereas other conditions are left to the discretion of a judge. These conditions can also include requiring the offender to be under house arrest except for predetermined absences, such as employment. These optional conditions must be reasonable, clear, and most importantly, certain. These conditions aim to protect society by preventing recidivism and facilitating the offender's successful rehabilitation and safe re-insertion into the community.
Peace bonds, on the other hand, can be used where there is a reasonable fear that a person will commit a child sexual offence. In fact, section 810.1 of the Criminal Code allows any person, under reasonable grounds, to lay information before a provincial court judge based on a fear that an individual will commit a certain sexual offence against a young person under 14 years of age. A court will order a person to enter into a peace bond if it is convinced, on a balance of probabilities, that the informant's fear is reasonably grounded. Peace bonds can encompass a variety of conditions, including prohibiting an offender from communicating on a computer with young people or attending public places where children could reasonably be expected to be present.
Lastly, prohibition orders allow courts to prohibit the offender from having contact with children where there exists an evidentiary basis for concluding that the offender poses a risk to young children. This prohibition may take different forms, such as a ban from specified places where children are present, restriction on employment involving a position of trust or authority over children, and access to the Internet.
The Criminal Code requires a judge to consider such orders in every case involving an enumerated offence, and they can last for the offender's lifetime.
Maximum penalties for breaches of probation orders, peace bonds, and prohibition orders, referred to collectively as supervision orders, would be increased under Bill . This would ensure that those who violate conditions imposed by the courts to protect children would be held accountable.
Bill would raise the maximum penalty for breaches of all supervision orders from two to four years on indictment. In addition, it would increase the maximum penalty for breaching prohibition and peace bonds from six months to 18 months on summary conviction. The proposed new maximums would ensure that offenders who breached these supervision orders were liable to the same penalties, regardless of the type of order, according to whether the breach was a prosecuted indictment or a summary conviction.
Furthermore, fines for breaching probation would increase from $2,000 to $5,000. The supervisory aspect of these orders helps to rehabilitate offenders, but, more importantly, ensures the maintenance of a just, peaceful, and safe society.
According to Statistics Canada, a number of studies with a follow-up period of 15 years noted that the average rate of recidivism among sex offenders is about 24%. However, alarmingly, the highest rate for recidivism found in this review was 35.5% for a sample of offenders who sexually offended against children. These offenders were followed for a 23-year period. The source of that information is the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics in a study called “Police-reported sexual offences against children and youth in Canada, 2012”, which was released on May 28, 2014.
It is, therefore, absolutely crucial that serious breaches of these conditions be denounced and deterred. One way that Bill would protect children is by ensuring that once child sexual offenders are released into the community, a breach of their conditions will result in serious consequences commensurate with the objective that these types of orders are designed to fulfill—namely, the protection of the most vulnerable members of our communities, our children.
For instance, a key component of the sentencing reform in Bill would ensure that any evidence that an offence was committed while the offender was subject to a conditional sentence, on parole, or while on statutory release would be an aggravating factor in their sentencing. Treating such instances as aggravating factors is necessary to denounce, deter, and punish offenders who deliberately persist in reoffending even after they have been placed under varying forms of supervision.
Such amendments are also necessary to protect the community when rehabilitative and reintegration efforts are clearly not working for these offenders. Increased penalties for those who violate conditions imposed by the courts to protect children would serve two very important functions: first, they would hold offenders accountable; second, they would prevent future harm to vulnerable children. This is especially true in the context of child sexual offences, where breaches of supervision orders may indicate a risk that the offender will re-victimize children. Thus, increasing the minimum and maximum penalties for breach of supervision orders is an important tool that courts can use in appropriate circumstances. Not only would these measures dissuade offenders from committing offences, but they would also separate child sexual predators from society before they commit repeat offences.
Breaching a supervision order is not a trivial offence. For instance, persons subject to probation and prohibition orders have already been processed through the criminal justice system and released on conditions that are intimately intertwined with the alleged or previous offences committed. As such, breaching these orders is serious, because it is concrete acknowledgement of a refusal by that offender to be rehabilitated. We must send a clear message. Such breaches require a clear, proportionate, and dissuasive response.
It is important to remember that these supervision orders have not been imposed in a vacuum. Combined, the amendments in Bill would send a clear message. We will not allow offenders to commit crimes with impunity while being under community supervision, especially when such breaches put children at risk. Additionally, they would achieve consistency in punishment for all heinous sexual offences against children.
These features of Bill are important and necessary. As a result, I urge all hon. members of the House to support this bill and its swift passage.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
It is a honour to speak to Bill , which amends a number of acts that deal with sexual offences against children. I would like to speak as a father, as an uncle, and hopefully someday as a grandfather.
I have two children. Any time the subject of child exploitation comes up, I think all parents across Canada would have zero tolerance for any sort of child exploitation that occurs in our society.
The bill is a good step in the right direction; however, a number of amendments and a number of recommendations from expert witnesses and stakeholders introduced at committee provided very good evidence to amend the bill. As usual, the Conservatives failed to entertain any of them.
That said, when I and all my colleagues talk about our children, there is no doubt that whether one is on this side of the aisle or the other side, every single member of the House is dead set against child exploitation. Not only that, in the last number of years the House has brought in a number of initiatives that have tightened the laws regarding child sexual exploitation, and we were happy to support those initiatives.
Members will remember Bill , an omnibus crime bill introduced by the Conservatives. We actually wanted to fast-track the sections that dealt with child exploitation. One side of the story is to bring in legislation to ensure that our children are safe, and as parliamentarians we should be doing that. I am very proud of the record of the NDP, the official opposition, in supporting initiatives that enhance the safety of our children.
It is one thing to be tough on crime, but we cannot be soft on community safety. That is the record of the Conservative government. The Conservatives have been soft on community safety. If we really want protection, laws alone will not provide it. We need to provide additional resources. Money must be invested into communities to ensure that service providers, other stakeholders, and law enforcement agencies have the tools and resources to ensure that our children are safe from predators. Earlier the member talked about the money that was unspent, and I will talk about that in a second.
I want to quote Steve Sullivan at the committee. He is the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime and he would certainly know something about resources in the community. He wrote:
...the federal government recently announced it was cutting the measly $650,000 in funding Corrections Canada provides. [The Circle of Support and Accountability program] also receives funding from the National Crime Prevention Centre; that's also set to end this fall. In total, the program costs $2.2 million a year.
He went on:
Like most community-based victim services, [Circles of Support and Accountability] is a fairly cheap program. It has 700 volunteers across the country; they meet with offenders after their release, help them find jobs and places to live, meet with them regularly for coffee. They support offenders as they settle into normal lives, ones that don't involve new victims. They hold them accountable.
This program has shown success. Here are some of the statistics that have come out. Circles of support and accountability numbers are impressive. One study found a 70% reduction in sexual offences recidivism for those who participated in circles of support and accountability compared to those who did not. Another study found an 83% reduction in child sexual offences recidivism.
This is the record of the government. If we are really concerned about ensuring safety for our children and safety in our community, why is the government cutting the very programs that have shown success in communities? They provided 700 volunteers. These are Canadian parents that are willing to volunteer their services to ensure that our communities remain safe, yet the government pulled the rug out from underneath this very successful program. We can create all the laws we want. We can say we are tough on crime, but it does not work if we are soft on community safety. That is the record of the government.
We had a couple of cases in Surrey, British Columbia. There was a young lady murdered by a sex offender who was known to the RCMP and who was on the list of those likely to reoffend. My heart goes out to the family. My heart goes out to the parents. What we did as a society, as a government, was let this happen in our community. Where was the support? How are we monitoring these people when they are released into the community?
If we know these people are likely to reoffend, why are they being dropped into the community without some sort of support, whether we provide resources to the RCMP or to the very front line workers who provide these services to monitor these individuals? We had programs in place where the recidivism rates for sexual offences were reduced by 83%, yet the government is cutting these very programs.
In fact, the mayor of the city of Surrey has called for more resources to ensure that once offenders are released, if they are released, that we have proper resources to ensure monitoring and ensuring there is support in place to ensure the safety of our children.
I often talk about this. Facts and research are not something Conservatives believe in because we know where they get their facts from. We have seen them pick their facts from Kijiji rather than relying on science or what works in the community. What works in the community are programs like circles of accountability and support.
I want to talk about the changes. I do not understand this as a parent. I do not understand as a member of Parliament. The government wants to enact a high-risk child sex offender database to establish a publicly accessible database that contains information that a police service or other public authority has previously made accessible to the public with respect to persons who are found guilty of sexual offences against children and who pose a high risk of committing crimes of a sexual nature.
If the offenders pose a high-risk of repeating crimes of a sexual nature, why are they being released into the community in the first place? That is how idiotic the government is.
If we are really concerned about ensuring the safety of our children, we need to provide resources. Bill C-26 does not provide any resources to ensure the safety of our communities.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to this debate on tougher penalties for sex offenders. In my professional career, I never stopped advocating for women's rights or for the fight against childhood poverty.
There is nothing sadder than to see children in vulnerable situations, whether because of an unstable family life, family violence, or just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We all have a duty in the House to ensure that we are doing everything we can to keep our families, children and communities safe and sound. Over the past few years, a significant number of children, girls and boys, have been victims of sex crimes in far too many of Canada's communities. This has an adverse effect on many aspects of their lives, on their self-confidence, their ability to trust others, their mental health and so many other things. So many families are wounded, broken and devastated because of these reprehensible crimes.
Furthermore, this bill is part of a complex societal debate because it involves several levels of government—municipal, provincial and territorial; police services such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and provincial and municipal police forces; many advocacy groups; and various professions such as youth protection workers, psychologists, street workers and psychosocial workers.
I am bringing my perspective as a mother, and also as the former president of the Regroupement des groupes de femmes de la région de la Capitale-Nationale to this debate. This bill does not do enough for the women and children traumatized by the horrors perpetrated by sex offenders.
The Conservatives consider themselves to be tough on crime. However, they are mistaken if they believe that the legislative measures proposed in this bill are sufficient. This is not the first nor the last time that I will admonish this government for its wishful thinking. I rise today with the expectation that this government will realize the importance of prevention, understand that simply handing out harsher sentences does not yield the desired results and grasp that we need meaningful action and not just fine words to look good for the cameras. Our children are paying the price for the lack of leadership to search for concrete solutions.
I want to talk about a statistic that shocked me and that could shock many people listening to me today. Sexual offences against children have increased 6% over the past two years. This statistic was shared by none other than the Minister of Justice, when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. A 6% increase is cause for concern.
Over the last decade, Canada has seen a significant increase in the number of people charged in cases of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation and luring a child using a computer.
I will use my time today to talk about three important points. First, I will give a critique of the proposal for harsher prison sentences, which do not do enough to fix the problem. Second, I will talk about the cuts made to public protection services. Third, I will talk about how what the public really needs is meaningful, comprehensive action.
First, I would like to emphasize the fact that the NDP has always had a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual offences against children. I think it is important to repeat that. We have zero tolerance for sexual offences against children.
When preparing this speech on Bill , I wondered why the Conservatives, who claim to be the champions in the fight against crime, have only one solution for every crime: tougher sentences. Tougher sentences alone do not work. A more comprehensive approach is needed.
Once again, the fact that sexual offences against children have increased by 6% in the past two years shows that the Conservatives are taking a minimalist approach. That is disgraceful. I would not want to be in the shoes of the , who has to justify that statistic to Canadians, particularly victims and their loved ones.
One of the amendments proposed by the NDP sought to obligate the minister to submit an annual report to Parliament on the effectiveness of the law. That amendment was rejected. Once again, how can the government justify that to victims and their loved ones?
As I have said repeatedly, what I have seen since entering federal politics is a government that is too often reacting instead of being proactive.
They do not seem to think it is important to invest in preventing crime. I do, however, and so do the people of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and many Canadians.
The government absolutely must invest in crime prevention and other practical solutions to keep our communities safe. I have to say that we are disappointed that this bill does not do more to introduce effective solutions that will do a better job of protecting our children and making our communities safer.
That brings me to my second point, which is about budget cuts and funding shortfalls. If we want to reduce the number of sexual crimes against children in this country, we have to back that up with resources. Disappointment on that front too: there is no new funding in this bill.
Resources on the ground cannot always keep up with the Conservative government's harsher law and order policies. The NDP believes that our communities need resources to combat child sexual abuse.
In regard to funding for police services, police forces are having to do more with less. The RCMP is already having difficulty keeping the criminal records registry up to date, for lack of resources. This bill will only further increase their workload, without adding any trained personnel to protect our children.
That is why I was so surprised to learn recently that the RCMP did not spend the $10 million earmarked for the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre and other projects to fight child pornography, even though more and more people are coming forward all the time to report child exploitation. How can this government justify that?
To illustrate my third point, I want to talk about how the Conservatives stubbornly refuse to listen to the questions being asked by people in communities across Canada and by experts. For the NDP, passing legislation is not something we take lightly. We always encourage the relevant committees to examine the bills. We meet with experts, associations and professionals with full transparency in order to understand their point of view. We often propose amendments based on the arguments of workers on the ground who are familiar with the realities facing victims.
This bill is no different; however, one thing that has not changed about the process is that the Conservatives continue to reject our amendments.
We understand the political game they are playing. However, I take exception to this government ignoring the recommendations made by the professional associations and experts who testified in committee. The experts are the ones we turn to for opinions and clarification. So why do the Conservatives ignore their recommendations?
What we want is simple. We want the government to stop turning a deaf ear and understand the scope of the problem. We want it to be open to working in collaboration with the opposition parties and the experts.
In closing, we are here to work in the interest of Canadians. This is not an easy task and we do not have all the answers.
Child sex offences have increased by 6%. We are asking the government to do more to improve those statistics and ensure that children are no longer victims of sexual offences and that communities have more resources to work on preventing and condemning reprehensible acts.
We are voting in favour of Bill , but I want to add my list of concerns.
I encourage the government to get its head out of the sand and stop thinking that tougher sentences will solve the problems, because they will not.
I urge the government to give victims support organizations and the police the resources they need to properly discharge their mandate in view of the growing number of complaints, including those about online practices.
I am asking the government to listen to the experts in order to improve this bill.
What measures will truly help protect the must vulnerable, such as children? How and when will these measures be incorporated in the government's policies?
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to provide some input in this very important bill. It is of paramount importance that it pass through Parliament as quickly as possible.
Our government has had a very strong desire to protect children. When it comes to criminal activity such as sexual exploitation against our most vulnerable, our children, we know we must never back down in our efforts to stop these terrible crimes. When one child is hurt or exploited, it is one child too many. As a parliamentarian and a mother of six children, I am convinced that we need to do more to protect our children against sexual exploitation and believe strongly that the legislation before the House today would do just that.
I feel strongly that Canadians all across the country will pay attention to the speeches today, to the responses and to the positions of everybody on this issue. I am sure every member in the House, whether a parent, uncle, aunt, grandparent or friend, would agree that we must ensure that individuals who sexually exploit children are held fully accountable. I hope every member agrees that we must ensure the laws allow our justice system to hand out appropriate sentences that match the seriousness of the crime.
With Bill , the tougher penalties for child predators act, we have an opportunity today to take an important step to protect our children from this crime that occurs far too often. As the statistics show and as was mentioned earlier, there is a 6% increase in sex offences against children. I urge all members of the House to support the passage of this bill without delay. Our children are too important, and it affects every family in Canada in one way or another.
Child sexual abuse is a crime of the most heinous nature. It causes unimaginable devastation to the lives of children. Studies have shown that it profoundly affects victims into adulthood and throughout their lives, and I dare say it affects their families as well.
Children under the age of 18 accounted for more than half the victims of sexual offences reported to police in 2012, and these numbers are unacceptable. They call for the kind of tough and decisive measures our government has proposed in this legislation. The bill contains a number of important elements, some of which fall under the responsibility of the , including, as the name suggests, tougher penalties for those convicted of child sexual offences, and that is exactly what they should get: tougher penalties.
Legislation would require judges to impose consecutive sentences when convicted child sex offenders were sentenced at the same time for contact child sexual offences against multiple victims or for child porn and contact child sexual offences. With this legislation, both the maximum and minimum penalties for child offences would be increased, as would the maximum penalties for violating conditions of supervision orders. This is well put when 6% more offences are occurring in our great country.
The bill also includes many practical measures at better safeguarding children against sexual exploitation, both in Canada and abroad. Our government often speaks about the need to ensure that law enforcement has the tools it needs to do its job of helping to keep citizens safe. That is certainly a key preoccupation of mine and I am proud of our government's record. It is a record upon which we can further build this legislation.
For the purposes of our discussion today, the tool in question is the National Sex Offender Registry, administered by the RCMP and used by police officers all across the country. It goes without saying that law enforcement agencies need to be aware of the location of registered sex offenders, and that is where the registry comes in. As of January 2015, there were approximately 37,000 registered sex offenders on the registry. Of those, approximately 25,000 have a conviction for a child sex offence.
Clearly, the National Sex Offender Registry is a vital tool for police in that it provides officers with rapid access to information on registered sex offenders who are living or working in a given area and can help police in their work to prevent or investigate sexual crimes.
Members in this House know that our government has made some legislative improvements already to enhance the effectiveness of the registry. In 2011, we ensured that convicted sex offenders were automatically included in the registry and were required to give a mandatory DNA sample to the National DNA Data Bank.
However, we could do more to strengthen its effectiveness as a tool to assist police in carrying out their work. To do that, we need to make some important amendments to the legislation that governs the registry, namely the Sex Offender Information Registration Act. As members know, that act came into force in 2004 and authorized the establishment of the data base containing information on convicted sex offenders across Canada. It includes information such as the offender's name, address, place of employment, and physical description.
Let me describe how the proposed amendments in the legislation before us would improve the effectiveness of the registry, beginning with the enhanced reporting requirements that would be imposed on sex offenders.
Obviously, reporting requirements are very important to ensure that police have up-to-date information on the whereabouts of registered sex offenders, including when they travel outside of Canada. As it stands today, registered sex offenders are required to report in person to registry officials on an annual basis and within seven days if they change either their addresses or legal names. They must also notify registry officials within seven days of a change in employment or volunteer activity, including the type of work they do.
All registered sex offenders are required to report the dates of absences of seven days or more for travel either within or outside of Canada. These are critical reporting requirements from the perspective of both accountability and public safety. However, they do not go far enough. At present, these offenders are only required to provide specific destinations and addresses for travel within Canada. Here is where it is obvious that there is a need for increased accountability and reporting.
Canada is one of many countries on the international stage that is gravely concerned about child sex tourism. Our determination to protect children from sexual crime does not stop at our borders. It extends to children everywhere. That is why, with this bill, we are taking measures to increase the reporting requirements for sex offenders who travel abroad and are imposing even more stringent requirements on those who have committed these crimes against children.
Registered sex offenders with a child sex offence would be required to report, in advance, international travel of any duration. This would now include a requirement to provide the address or locations where they will be staying and the specific dates of their travel.
As for other registered sex offenders, that is, those who do not fall into the category of child sex offender, their reporting requirements would be as follows.
They would have to report any trips of seven days or longer, again including the dates and addresses or locations where they would be staying. They would also be required to report their passport and driver's licence numbers. Of note, the new reporting obligations would apply to those currently in the registry and those convicted after the legislation comes into force. Taken together, these changes would have the effect of ensuring that police have better information regarding the whereabouts of travelling sex offenders.
Another critical part is information sharing. The next element in the bill I will highlight is how we would provide for the exchange of information on certain registered sex offenders between the officials responsible for the registry and those at the Canada Border Services Agency, CBSA.
As members have heard, under the current legislative framework, there is no specific legal mechanism for this information to be shared at the present time. While the current legislation allows registry information to be shared in certain circumstances, including to police services, there is no such authority for sharing with CBSA. This gap in information sharing obviously inhibits our knowledge about the travel of sex offenders. It is a gap that needs to be addressed.
Given its responsibility for management of our borders, CBSA can and should be one of the authorities involved in receiving and providing information that assists in monitoring the travel of sex offenders.
With this bill we would close the information gap by providing the authority for officials at the registry to regularly disclose information to the CBSA about child sex offenders who are assessed as a high risk to reoffend. The bill would also allow sharing of information between the RCMP and CBSA on other registered sex offenders on a case-by-case basis.
I would note here that the RCMP would implement a risk assessment process to determine those child offenders who present the highest risk to reoffend. The experts in the police forces are the people to do this.
Upon receiving a list of these offenders, the CBSA would then ensure that the sex offenders' names were placed on their lookout system. Border officials would also be authorized to collect travel information from these offenders upon their return to Canada and to share it with National Sex Offender Registry officials, including the date of departure and return to Canada and every address or location at which they stayed outside of Canada.
This type of enhanced information sharing would achieve two very important outcomes. The first is that we would better enable authorities to investigate and prevent crimes of a sexual nature. The second is that we would put the authorities in a better position to address any potential breaches in the reporting obligations of the offenders.
These are reasonable changes that just make sense. If we are going to keep a closer eye on the travel habits of sex offenders, it only stands to reason that our border officials and National Sex Offender Registry officials need to be able to share the information.
The final element of the bill is one that would allow us to further deliver on our commitment to Canadians to protect our communities from sex offenders. This is very important to our government, because Canadians want and deserve access to information they feel could protect their families. They feel that they need to have this information, and that includes information about potentially high-risk individuals who live in their communities. That information should be easily accessible and available to all Canadians, and this bill would pave the way for that.
The proposed public database, the high risk child sex offender database, would be separate from the National Sex Offender Registry, which is accessible only to police. This new high risk child sex offender database would be searchable by the entire Canadian public. It would include information about those high-risk child sex offenders who have already been the subject of a public notification in a provincial or territorial jurisdiction. They would be well known anyway to the public.
Our government believes that it is only right that Canadians have the ability to access this type of information with a few simple clicks on the computer. After all, knowledge of the presence of high-risk child sex offenders in the city would empower parents to take appropriate precautions to protect their children.
To that end, I can assure members of this House that consultations are under way with the provinces and territories regarding police notifications and the proposed database. We continue to work closely with these partners to develop further criteria to define the high-risk child sex offenders who would be included in the new publicly accessible database
As members can see, our government has developed a clear path forward to better protect the public from offenders with one of the most troubling forms of criminal behaviour we have to face in society. I am speaking as one who has worked with many trafficked victims and many children who have been sexually violated.
There is an impact on a family, and it is not just poor people, aboriginal people, or girls who are out looking for a boyfriend, or whatever people say. What we are talking about is a predatory kind of crime that looks to prepubescent children for the perpetrator's sexual gratification.
This bill would do much to close the gaps out there now. When we see a 6% increase in child exploitation and child sex offences, clearly, in Canada, there is a problem. That is why our government has taken bold steps to protect children. It has taken bold steps to ensure that we do every possible thing to enhance information sharing and communication between police forces and to protect our children from sexual exploitation and sexual crimes.
We would improve the accountability of sex offenders and better protect those who need safeguarding from crimes of a sexual nature. Those are our children.
I have to say that I am very proud to be part of a government that has taken a very clear stand on this. Today it is particularly interesting to hear some of the comments, because we as parliamentarians have to take a very responsible attitude and make sure that the children throughout our country are protected from sexual predators. It is frivolous to vote against or block anything that would do that. Certainly this particular bill would close many gaps. Even now, a lot of children are at risk without these gaps being closed.
I hope parliamentarians on all sides of the House will put aside their partisan concerns. I know that an election is coming soon, but by the same token, Canadians all across the country want these laws. They want their children protected. They want to know where the individuals who have been convicted of sexual offences against children reside.
We cannot heal sexual offences against children. They learn how to be survivors, but the occurrence comes back to them over and over again. The first thing I believe parliamentarians have to do in one voice is protect the most vulnerable in this country.
This is too important for political interference. We need to take the heart of the nation and the heart of the parents and children who are reaching out to the House of Commons today and put these laws into place and ensure that their families are safe.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I am splitting my time with the member for .
The stats are troubling. One out of three girls and one out of six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. These statistics mean that right now in Canada there are five million girls who have been sexually abused and 2.8 million boys. That number is too high. That is a statistic that should trouble everyone in Canada.
That is part of the reason why we are supporting Bill going forward, but we do not believe that the bill goes far enough and I will explain why. Some 95% of child sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way, a statistic from the Badgley commission in the eighties, and 68% are abused by a family member, someone within their family: stepfather, father or an uncle. When we think of these statistics, the problem becomes much more complex.
I am the father of a 10-year-old girl. I have another daughter on the way. She is due to be born in June. These statistics are troubling to me as a father. It is something that is always on my mind. It is always a worry that one day something might happen to my daughter.
New Democrats have zero tolerance for child sexual abuse. I would like to think that zero tolerance for child sexual abuse does not mean that we only get the predator after the perpetrator has abused the child, because that, in effect, is what the bill is addressing. For everything that is addressed in the bill, the sexual abuse has already happened. My hope as a father is that we could get rid of child sexual abuse before it happens, before any child in this country is abused.
There is nothing in Bill that will stop a child from being abused. I will explain why. The reason is that once the police put a predator in jail, the predator has abused a child. Once a perpetrator's name is in a database, the perpetrator has abused a child already. The abuse has already happened.
My question to my colleague, who may or may not be listening to me speaking about this, is that we have to find the solution to stopping sexual abuse before it happens. We have to reduce this problem that is in our country.
That said, we do support measures to remove child sexual predators from general society to protect the children they may further abuse. We even went to the point during the debates on Bill to approach the House leader and the minister responsible to say that we would take all the measures for child sexual predators out of the omnibus legislation and fast-track them through the House right away, make them into law right away. Unfortunately, the other side did not accept that. We thought that the need to pass them was pressing and that is why we proposed that. We would agree with putting these predators away so that the abuse stops.
However, we have to start talking about real action and we have to back up this action with actual funding, because tough words will not solve the problem. We also have to keep an open mind when we discuss this, because child sexual abuse is a wicked problem. It does not have simple solutions.
The statistics I cited at the top of my speech should make members think. Often when abuse happens in a family, the child is unwilling to speak because it may be a father or a stepfather. In the children's minds, they are trying to protect their family in one way, and yet they are trying to protect themselves. It is a very confusing experience for a child.
The Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute in the U.S. says:
Professionals - physicians and therapists - can never put an end to sexual abuse; neither can the police or the courts. Why? Because they come on the scene too late. By the time they get there, the children have already been molested.
Therefore, the question we should be asking is, how do we prevent child abuse? We need to have frank discussions. The member across mentioned education, but part of the education piece that needs to happen is how to talk within families about abuse. It should not just be talking about the predator being a stranger outside of the family who is somehow going to infiltrate the family to abuse the children. Often the abuser is within the family already. Therefore, we need the tools to have these frank discussions about issues of abuse and issues of consent. As I said, 95% of the people are known to the children and 68% are often a family member.
At the core, sending molesters to jail as a solution to child molestation will always fail our children because in order for a molester to be jailed children will be abused. This is again from the institute. It is the same with treatment. When people who perpetrate child sexual abuse are identified for treatment, they have often already abused the child.
The member across the way also said that what we think of child sexual predators is not always the case. It is not one ethnic group and not one social class. There was actually a study done. It was called the Abel and Harlow child molestation prevention study. It looked at 4,000 admitted child molesters, men from the ages of 18 to 20. They found the following statistics: 77% were married; 93% were religious, men of faith; 46% had college educations; and 65% had normal steady work. After stating that, what does a child sexual predator look like? Physically, it could look like many of the men in this chamber. It is not what we imagine it to be on the outside.
They look like normal men on the outside, but on the inside they have a disorder that has been identified under the DSM as pedophilia. Pedophilia is an awful mental disorder. We do not discuss attacking this disorder enough. Often pedophilia is identified in the teenage years in men. There are signs that appear that can be signals. If we flag them soon enough, we might be able to prevent sexual abuse from occurring. If we could identify in the teenage years the signs of this disorder, then we could actually attack it right at the root.
This is where we have to attack it because then we could actually prevent these men, and sometimes women, from actually committing the sexual abuse. We have to focus on the cause. We have to develop a prevention plan to prevent sexual abuse from ever happening.
Bill C-26 does a wonderful job of looking at what to do after someone has abused a child. We would put them in jail and put them in a database. However, we really need to take action on finding a way to prevent child abuse from ever happening in the first place.
The way we are going to do that is to have a frank discussion. We have to stop portraying this as a stranger that is going to perpetrate sexual abuse on a child. We know the statistics. There have been many studies done. We have to really put the resources toward the root of the problem and start having frank discussions within our families and with our neighbours about the roots of sexual abuse.
We need to start to put our energy into this, so that those seven million children in our country, that I cited as the next generation, will have even less abuse and eventually, hopefully, we can eradicate this problem from our society entirely.