Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today to Bill C-3.
Before getting elected, I had the opportunity to serve on the board of an organization in my riding called the Saffron Centre, and I want to recognize the great work it is doing in providing counselling and education on bullying, sexual violence, boundaries and related points. I served on the board of that organization prior to the #MeToo movement. At the time, the board would have conversations about the lack of social awareness around these issues and some of the challenges of fundraising and engaging people in supporting our organization in the context of where the awareness was at that time.
There is still a long way to go, but I think a lot has changed. As a result of the #MeToo movement, there has been a real growth, awareness and recognition. It was interesting for me to speak with some of the people involved in the organization after the start of the #MeToo movement. They shared with me that there was a significant increase in the demand for counselling. A lot of it was cases of historic trauma, that is, people who had experienced sexual harassment and violence, perhaps decades ago, and had never come forward or sought help. They were empowered to seek help based on what they were hearing about in the media or on social media when other people were stepping forward and sharing their experiences. We probably all have stories about community-based organizations in our riding. The way that public conversations around the #MeToo movement encouraged people to come forward to seek counselling and support for historic trauma really reminds us of the importance of these conversations.
Some time today has been spent debating the debate, with members across the way challenging why we are having this debate and asking why we cannot just give unanimous consent at all stages of the bill. We have seen cases in which bills that maybe have one objective do not fulfill that objective or could be strengthened in other ways at committee, so the parliamentary process is important. We have also seen, even today, how the conversations around these issues can be important and inspiring for people. It is therefore important for us, as members of Parliament, to discuss these issues as we support Bill C-3 and work to move it forward.
In 2017, our former Conservative leader, Rona Ambrose, introduced the just act, a bill that would have required lawyers seeking a judicial appointment to undergo training about sexual assault. It would also have required courts to provide written reasons in sexual assault rulings. The House of Commons passed the bill unanimously, but it was delayed in the Senate, and as a result the just act was never passed.
In Canada, an estimated one in three women and one in eight men are victims of sexual violence at some time in their lives. That means approximately 5.73 million women and 2.3 million men will be victims. We can all agree that those numbers are too high. Statistics Canada reported in 2014 that, sadly, only 5% of sexual assaults were reported to the police. That means that fewer than 5% of sexual predators get the justice they deserve for their despicable acts.
The low number of reported cases is due to the fact that victims of sexual assault no longer have confidence in our justice system. A report published by the Department of Justice entitled “A Survey of Survivors of Sexual Violence in Three Canadian Cities” found that two out of three women had little or no confidence in the justice process. This is because the judges presiding over sexual assault cases had no knowledge of Canada's sexual assault laws. This led to incidents where judges unfairly questioned the character of the victims and completely ignored our sexual assault laws.
The just act would have improved this situation. Last Monday the Liberals decided to re-introduce this bill. Like the just act, Bill C-3 would require all newly appointed provincial superior court judges to participate in training on sexual assault and would amend the Criminal Code to require judges to provide written reasons or provide reasons in the record when making a decision in a sexual assault case.
Let us put politics aside. I am pleased that this bill has been brought forward again to protect the vulnerable victims of sexual assault. However, I think that we should take this opportunity to go even further. In February, I told the House that it would be useful to include sexual assault training for parole officers as well. I would like the government to add that to this bill.
We know that there have been problems in the past with the Parole Board of Canada. Dangerous criminals have committed more crimes after being released on parole. One example is the case of Eustachio Gallese, a convicted murderer who stabbed a woman after being released on parole. This incident could have been completely avoided had the Parole Board of Canada demonstrated good judgment. I am worried that this sort of thing could happen again when predators are released on parole. That is why it is essential that we give parole officers training on sexual assault and sexual predators. Victims must be protected.
I know that the current Liberal government likes to boast about being feminist. Here is a perfect opportunity to show Canadians that its feminist approach is legitimate and not just a political talking point. Going above and beyond the previous proposal by adding other measures to protect victims of sexual assault would be a worthwhile initiative. I know that we all want to ensure that Canadian women and men are protected from predators.
As legislators in this minority Parliament, I think it is important that we work together to ensure that we pass good, comprehensive legislation. I look forward to discussing the need for sexual assault training for our judges and our parole officers with my colleagues from all parties.
Having discussed now the substance and history of this particular bill and some related issues, I would like to add a few additional general comments about the vital work of combatting sexual assault and then respond to some of the other comments that have been made thus far in this debate.
While recognizing the value of educational initiatives, we also need to recognize their inherent limits. Criminal behaviour by some and callousness or indifference by others can, indeed, result from ignorance. Ignorance can be resolved through education, but ignorance is not the only cause of bad behaviour. Some people who are fully informed about what is right and wrong will still go on to commit heinous crimes or show indifference to the suffering of others. For such people, the problem is not awareness; rather, it is inclinations or patterns of behaviour that they have not brought under control.
It also might be a lack of empathy. For those who lack a requisite degree of empathy, no amount of information will change their behaviour. As author C.S. Lewis once observed, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” Lewis's point deserves reflection as we consider the importance, but also the limitations, of prescribing education and training in response to sexual assault and harassment. We need to ask ourselves what actions we can take and what actions other institutions can take to support the development of positive, as opposed to negative, patterns of behaviour, as well as the development of empathy. Without this necessary development of character and virtue, more education in terms of legal lines and processes will be ineffective.
Another way to consider this issue is through the lens of the old debate between virtue ethics and rule-based ethics. Rule-based ethics frames ethical actions being about adherence to rules. In the present case, a rule like, “Don't assault or harass another person” is the one being applied.
Virtue ethics, on the other hand, frames ethics in terms of the need to develop positive qualities of character that allow individuals both to know what is right and to be able to apply that knowledge in specific situations. Virtue ethics would emphasize the need to develop the virtues of justice and self-control. A person who has developed the virtues of justice and self-control will necessarily not engage in behaviour that hurts or threatens other people, justice being the virtue of giving to others what is due to them and self-control being the virtue of controlling one's own appetites or inclinations.
These two ethical frameworks, rule-based and virtue ethics, are not mutually exclusive, but there is a question of emphasis. Personally, I believe the virtue ethics framework is more important because it seeks to not only attend to questions of what we ought to do, but also attend to questions of how to develop the capacity to consistently do what we ought to do.
Efforts to combat sexual assault should not just involve education in the form of passing on information about standards of conduct and legal frameworks but should also involve the positive promotion of qualities of character like justice and self-control. Growing up, I do not specifically recall ever being directly told not to sexually harass or assault people. Instead, I was taught to recognize the innate dignity of all people and to exercise control over my impulses. When justice and self-control are fully absorbed, the specific rule in this case seems very obvious.
As a father, I obviously think a lot about how to raise my own children to be good people and good citizens. My own children are too young for discussions about sexual violence, but I already try to work to encourage the development of the virtues of justice and self-control as well as a sense of solidarity and empathy. The development of these intellectual and practical virtues will hopefully make it obvious how to behave in situations they may encounter in the future.
Much is said today about the idea of toxic masculinity. In my opinion, it is important for us to seek to replace toxic masculinity with a redefined masculinity. Toxic masculinity involves seeking power over others, but a redefined concept of masculinity means power and control over oneself and one's own appetites and the courage to work to protect vulnerable people and advance justice.
Winston Churchill once observed that the power of man has grown in every sphere except over himself. Here, Churchill puts his finger on one of the biggest problems we face today: People who may know what is right and have been fully educated in terms of what is right still do not always have the will or virtues required to exercise the necessary power over their whims and appetites. The exercise of that power over self is vitally important in order to be a good person and a good citizen. A person without the virtues of justice and self-control can never be truly happy or resilient.
A redefined masculinity would emphasize justice and control of self, not personal gratification and the domination of others. I worry that in so many domains modern governments emphasize rules but not virtues, training but not the development of character. We need to give more considerations to the lessons virtue ethics can provide for combatting evils like sexual harassment and assault. I hope those who are developing these training programs for judges as well as for young people, educators, former offenders, etc., will take into consideration the important insights of the virtue tradition.
I want to take the remainder of my speech today to just respond to some of the points made. My colleague from Sarnia—Lambton spoke very eloquently about many different issues. She spoke about the importance of jurisdictions. This bill is an action in federal jurisdiction but it reminds us as well that there is other action that needs to be taken in other levels of government. The debate we are having today can hopefully be an impetus for further conversations.
My colleague from Sarnia—Lambton also spoke about the issue of rape culture. It is worth revisiting the important work done in the last Parliament that was initiated by my colleague, the member for Peace River—Westlock, on understanding the impact violent sexual images can have on especially young boys who see those images. We need policy changes that specifically combat rape culture, such as having requirements for meaningful age verification on the Internet. We should not be allowing young boys to access violent sexual images on the Internet. By instituting mechanisms for meaningful age verification, we could provide greater protections to ensure there are not those aspects of rape culture shaping the early sexualization of young boys.
I want to salute the member for Sarnia—Lambton and the member for Peace River—Westlock for the work they have done on those issues. I hope we will see, in the spirit of meaningful action on these issues, things like meaningful age verification. I will be picking up my remarks when we return.