Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak about our government's decisive action to keep our streets and communities safe. I am proud to note that we have a particular focus on protecting the most vulnerable of all in our society, and that is our dear children.
Since 2006, we have taken a number of actions in this regard, including, among many others, enacting new and increasing existing mandatory minimum penalties for child sex offences and making it illegal for anyone to provide sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that child.
Recently, as members of this House will know, we took action to crack down on cyberbullying. That has been mentioned in speeches here already. We have all been moved by several tragic cases we have heard about, from across the country and North America, where young lives have been lost due to the emotional torment caused by cyberbullying. That is why last year we passed legislation to give police and prosecutors new tools to effectively address cyberbullying.
Although our government has taken significant strides to protect our children, more work remains to be done. Of course, more work always remains to be done. Sadly, other threats to our children exist, perhaps none so disturbing as the threat from child sexual offenders, and that seems to be growing domestically and abroad. In 2013 alone in Canada, some 4,200 sexual violations against children were reported to police. Those were just those cases that were reported, not to mention the many others that have no doubt occurred and for one reason or another were not reported.
Child sexual exploitation is a horrible, evil crime. Although most of us could never fully imagine the extent of devastation caused by abuse of this sort, we understand that the impact on the victims endures long after the abuse ends. That is why we are committed to doing everything we can to protect our children, and that is why our government has introduced the comprehensive legislation before us.
The tougher penalties for child predators act would help us better address the enormity of this crime and further crack down on offenders convicted of child sexual abuse offences. It proposes a range of measures to protect our children. It will take a few moments for me to outline some of these changes we have proposed, beginning with the proposed changes to the Criminal Code.
The first is to ensure that those convicted of child pornography and child-contact child sexual offences serve their sentences one after another, consecutively, instead of discounting them, where we pile one sentence on the other and the offenders get a break and less time served. Particularly, this would be for offenders who have victimized multiple children. Further, this legislation would increase both maximum and minimum penalties for child sex offences and would increase penalties for the violation of conditions in supervision orders. Finally, it would ensure that the spouse of a person charged with child pornography offences could be obliged to testify in court. That is important, as often it is the spouse who can provide the testimony needed to secure convictions in these cases.
Now I would like to turn our attention to some of the important proposed amendments to the Sex Offender Information Registration Act.
Before I get to the changes, I would note that this act, which came into force in 2004, allowed for the establishment of a database containing information on convicted sex offenders across Canada. It is called the National Sex Offender Registry. It is administered by the RCMP and is used by police across Canada to help them prevent and investigate crimes of a sexual nature. There are currently approximately 37,000 sex offenders listed on the database, of which 25,000 have been convicted of a sex offence against a child.
Certainly some important reporting obligations are already in place in the current system. For example, offenders are required to report annually and any time they change their address or legal name, and all registered sex offenders are required to report absences of seven days or more for trips either within or outside of Canada.
It is also worth noting that significant reforms came into effect in 2011 to strengthen the registry and the National DNA Data Bank. Those changes include the automatic inclusion, and mandatory DNA sampling, of convicted sex offenders in the registry, proactive use of the registry by police to prevent offences, registration of sex offenders convicted abroad, and parallel amendments to ensure that reforms apply to those convicted of sex offences through the military justice system.
Nevertheless, legitimate concerns remain about our ability to know the whereabouts of sex offenders, particularly given offenders' mobility to travel abroad to other countries.
Internationally, approximately one million children are exploited by sex tourists and sex traffickers each year. Our government is committed to taking action to protect children from sexual exploitation no matter where in the world it may occur.
Indeed, the changes we are proposing to the Sex Offender Information Registration Act would allow us to better protect children from sexual exploitation, both in Canada and abroad, by ensuring that police have more information about the travel plans of sex offenders. One proposed change is to broaden the reporting requirements for registered sex offenders about their international travel plans.
I mentioned a moment ago that all registered sex offenders are required to report absences of seven days or more for trips within or outside of Canada. However, currently the requirement for them to provide specific destinations and addresses is for domestic trips only.
We are proposing that sex offenders convicted of child sex offences be required to report absences of any duration for trips abroad, and, again, provide specific travel dates and locations. Registered sex offenders travelling abroad would be required to report every address or location at which they expect to stay for a trip of seven days or longer, and the specific dates that they will depart and return.
This brings me to the next proposed change, which is one that would allow for the establishment of information sharing between officials with access to the National Sex Offender Registry and officials at the Canadian Border Services Agency. Although this may surprise some, there is currently no mechanism for information sharing regarding sex offenders between those two organizations. It goes without saying that it limits our knowledge of sex offenders when they travel.
To close this gap, the bill proposes to authorize registry officials to disclose information about certain registered sex offenders to officials at the Canadian Border Services Agency, particularly in cases of child sex offenders assessed as high risk, so that they can be placed on a lookout system. In addition, border officials would be authorized to collect travel information about these sex offenders upon their return to Canada and then share it with National Sex Offender Registry officials.
Finally, the bill includes provisions that would authorize the RCMP to establish and administer a publicly accessible national database of high-risk child sex offenders. Essentially this would be a separate database that would centralize public access to certain information on high-risk child sex offenders who have already been the subject of a public notification in a provincial or territorial jurisdiction.
In conclusion, these changes would allow us to further deliver on some of the worthy commitments we have made to Canadians, namely to ensure that those who break the law are punished accordingly for their actions, that penalties match the severity of the crimes, and that the rights of the victims come before the rights of the criminals. Above all, these changes would allow us to better shelter children, both in Canada and abroad, from the horrific crime of child sexual exploitation.
Therefore, I call on members of all parties in this House for their support of this very worthy measure.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act