Mr. Speaker, I consider it a privilege to rise in the House tonight to express my full support for the tougher penalties for child predators act, not just as the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and co-sponsor of this bill, but also as the member of Parliament for Lévis-Bellechasse and Les Etchemins.
I am very proud to represent this region. It includes people in the agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors as well as the insurance world, who, generation after generation, have built their business relationships on trust.
Trust is partly what I want to talk about tonight, not the trust between an insurer and his client, as one would see in my riding, but the trust between a child and an adult that is broken in cases of abuse.
This evening, I saw that everyone in the House supports the principle of this very important bill. This bill would better protect children against people who want to steal their innocence for their own perverse sexual gratification, and it would hold those who commit these heinous crimes accountable for the harm they inflict on society.
Our government is standing up for victims, just as the Minister of Justice is doing tonight by rising to introduce the victims bill of rights, which would implement measures to complement those that we have been putting place since 2006 to protect victims. We want to give them back their voice; their dignity; and the right to information, protection and restitution, as well as the right to participate in the judicial process. We want to put them back at the heart of our justice system.
Last week, our Prime Minister—accompanied by the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable, who is the Minister of International Development—kicked off a hugely successful summit in Toronto intended to help women around the world, as well as those children who come into this world and are not lucky enough to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
The initiative announced by the Prime Minister will ensure that, as Canadians, we are proud to help women around the world who are in need.
We have always been clear that when it comes to violent and sexual crimes, particularly those committed against our children, we make no apologies for our push to impose harsher penalties and longer sentences for the monsters convicted of these horrendous acts.
We will not apologize for imposing tougher, longer sentences on people who attack that which we hold most dear—our children. That is why it is important to make changes to existing laws, so that a convicted sex offender is given a sentence that reflects the severity of his crime. That is why we will be moving forward with this bill, which includes many measures to ensure that child predators are punished, and that we are protecting children here in Canada as well as abroad.
The Minister of Justice talked about the changes he wants to make to the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act, notably to ensure that someone who is found guilty of sexually assaulting several children serves consecutive sentences, and to increase maximum and minimum penalties that apply to offenders convicted of sexual offences against children.
Why should we have minimum sentences for sexual predators? It is a measure that is used when society feels that the crime was abhorrent, unacceptable and intolerable. That is why our government uses minimum sentences with discretion, moderation and, I would say, restraint, for heinous crimes. That is the kind of crime we have, when adults attack our children.
We will increase maximum penalties for offenders who violate the terms of their supervision orders, which is to say, repeat offenders.
This would ensure that committing a crime while on parole and on unescorted temporary absence, statutory release or while subject to a conditional sentence order would be an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
This will ensure that committing a crime while on parole or during an unescorted temporary absence would be considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
My colleague, the Minister of Justice, also indicated that he wished to amend the Canada Evidence Act to permit spousal testimony in child pornography cases.
I would like to talk about the public safety aspect.
For my part, I will focus on the proposed changes that would help front line law enforcement keep track of dangerous sex offenders.
Canadians, even members of the opposition, agree that it is critical that law enforcement agencies are aware of the location of high-risk registered sex offenders. That, in fact, is one of the reasons why the national sex offender registry exists in the first place.
The national sex offender registry helps police investigate sex crimes by providing up-to-date information about convicted sex offenders and the identity of all registered sex offenders living or working in a particular geographic area. These sex offenders have been convicted of serious sexual offences, and the courts have ordered that they be identified to police.
This database has been an essential law enforcement tool since 2004. There are currently 33,000 individuals listed in the national sex offender registry. Two-thirds of those, or 22,000 individuals, have been convicted of sex crimes against children. I cannot overstate the importance of this registry because police need to have quick access to that information when they are trying to locate sex offenders or investigate crimes.
In 2010, our government passed several measures to strengthen the sex offender registry and make it more effective. At that time, we made sure that anyone convicted of a sexual offence would automatically be added to the registry. We also made it mandatory that every convicted sex offender had to provide a DNA sample to the National DNA Data Bank.
At the same time, we also gave police the power to use the registry proactively as a crime-fighting tool, not just an investigative tool.
This meant that rather than having to wait until after a sexual crime was committed, police officers were able to access the registry to help prevent a crime if they noticed a suspicious person or activity near playgrounds or schools, for example.
I have to say that I have met chiefs of police who have told me that police officers have witnessed suspicious activity around our schools. They get calls and reports. When they respond, they see individuals behaving suspiciously. I think that Canadian families need reassurance. They need to know that our government and Parliament are working to implement measures that will keep our streets safe so that our children can run around without having to worry about someone hurting them.
These amendments mark a tremendous step forward for the protection of vulnerable people from sex offenders.
That being said, there are other necessary changes to ensure the effectiveness of the registry and to protect children here in Canada and abroad. Indeed, sometimes people here leave the country to abuse children abroad. That is why it is important to provide better information to police services when it comes to the travel records and the location of registered sex offenders, especially those found guilty of sexual offences against children. As we saw, nearly two-thirds of the individuals on the registry, or nearly 22,000 people, committed crimes against children.
Currently, all registered sex offenders have to declare absences of seven days or more for any trip, regardless of whether the trip is taken domestically or internationally. For any trip a registered sex offender plans on taking in Canada, that offender must provide detailed information on the location he intends to visit and the addresses of where he plans to stay. However, under the current law, he is not required to provide that same detailed information on his destination and addresses if he is travelling abroad.
Take, for example, a registered sex offender who lives in Ontario and is planning to go to British Columbia for two weeks. He has to provide the police with the address and contact information of where he plans to stay, but if he leaves for Thailand for two weeks, there are no rules. That person is not required to provide locations or details. Under the legislation we are debating this evening, this practice would end. The sex offender would have to provide travel details for trips outside Canada lasting seven or more days, and provide the precise dates of departure and return. Unfortunately, sexual tourism exists. It is important to address this practice when it affects children.
Indeed, international travel is a key focus of this bill. We are concerned about child sex tourism, namely those who are leaving Canada without the knowledge of Canadian authorities and being convicted of sexual assault in the past.
We believe the current system creates a loophole that could be exploited. As it stands today, child sex offenders can travel outside of Canada for only four, five or six days and therefore not be obliged to report their absence to authorities.
We will close this gap by making it mandatory for any registered sex offender convicted of a sex offence against a child to report any absence of any duration outside of Canada.
Whether it is a matter of two days, two hours or two minutes, the duration will no longer be an issue. A child sex offender will have to report any time spent outside Canada.
With these measures in place,we will give the authorities the tools they need to acquire more specific information about where sex offenders live, when they leave, where they stay and when they return. The police will be in a position to follow them and exchange this information with police authorities and law enforcement agencies in the countries where these individuals travel. This will be done to protect children around the world.
We all know that there will always be individuals who try to circumvent the rules and avoid informing the authorities of their plans to travel abroad. That is where another agency will step in; the Canada Border Services Agency will play an important role.
Consider that in 2012 almost 100 million people crossed our borders, either at our ports, airports or departure docks.
While Canada Border Services Agency officers have a number of tools at their disposal to determine the admissibility of each traveller coming into Canada, they do not currently have access to information found in the national sex offender registry. Furthermore, Border Services Agency officers are not able to collect certain travel information from sex offenders at the port of entry, nor can they regularly provide information to officials at the national sex offender registry. The left hand needs to speak to the right hand. This is also what this bill is all about.
If we keep an eye on child sex offenders who travel abroad, it goes without saying that border services officers must have access to this vital information; they must also be able to work more closely with those responsible for the registry in order to share pertinent information. The bill will allow us to do that. We propose to improve information-sharing between these two entities, the Canada Border Services Agency and the national registry, in order to ensure the safety of Canadians and of children in Canada and elsewhere.
When the bill is passed, registered sex offenders will be required to include their passport and driver's licence numbers in the information provided to the national sex offender registry. These are concrete and practical measures. However, they must be covered by legislation and it is the reason why we are introducing them.
Furthermore, those responsible for the registry must be able to provide the Canada Border Services Agency with information about high-risk sex offenders who intend to travel abroad, or other registered sex offenders, in order to help prevent or investigate a sex crime.
If the Canada Border Services Agency is made aware of a registered sex offender, border guards will be able to collect the offender's travel information at the border and share it with those responsible for the registry. The people who maintain the registry will know whether sex offenders are leaving the country and where they are going. These strong measures will allow us to keep children safe from dangerous pedophiles both here at home and abroad.
I would like to talk about a third thing, which Canadians feel very passionate about, and that is the right of victims, children and families to know whether there is a high-risk sex offender living in their neighbourhood. That is perfectly legitimate. We can inform them in a safe way in co-operation with local authorities, and that is what we are proposing to do.
Canadians have the right to know the character of the individuals who are near their children. If a dangerous pedophile is within arm's reach of their child, they have the right to take proper actions and precautions. That is why the bill would enact the high risk child sex offender database act, which would allow our government to create a national public database.
We are going to create a public registry of high-risk sex offenders so that parents can take responsible measures to keep their children safe.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question and his concern for the people of Lac-Mégantic.
This will allow me to explain just how much the government wants to help this community that was devastated last summer. We are committed to rebuilding and reviving the town's economy. We have also taken action to support rail safety and to make this means of transportation safer.
The Prime Minister visited the town the day after the accident to see the extent of the damage and to provide his support for the people of Lac-Mégantic. On July 22, the Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie, the member for Mégantic—L'Érable, announced $60 million in assistance for response and recovery efforts for Lac-Mégantic.
A first instalment of $25 million will be provided by Public Safety Canada to support immediate response and recovery needs. Another $35 million will support economic recovery and long-term rebuilding of the community and businesses. Thus, Public Safety Canada and the Economic Development Agency of Canada have joined forces to work with various stakeholders to support the Lac-Mégantic community and to respond to its needs.
I want to point out that the Government of Quebec is the primary point of contact for this issue. The money is available and we are actively working with Quebec. The government has always offered its support to help communities get back on their feet during times of crisis. We make it a priority, and we reiterated that commitment in the throne speech.
There have already been several meetings to discuss the terms of this co-operation, which will provide tangible support for communities and businesses in Lac-Mégantic. Of course, there are short-term measures in place. The federal government will also provide long-term development support, to help this community be prosperous over the long term.
On November 21, the Prime Minister went to Lac-Mégantic for the third time and announced that the government would provide additional financial support for the decontamination work in Lac-Mégantic. We will split the decontamination costs in half with the Government of Quebec, up to $95 million. The city of Lac-Mégantic and the Government of Quebec expressed a need for assistance. This additional assistance shows that our government is working to help community stakeholders with their solutions.
Our multi-faceted support shows that our government is willing to do everything it can to help the people involved in Lac-Mégantic's economic development, as they are working on its recovery and stimulating economic activity.
With regard to government employment levels, for each of the federal electoral districts of Parry Sound—Muskoka, Macleod, Haldimand—Norfolk, Halton, Edmonton Centre, Central Nova, Mégantic—L'Érable and Eglinton—Lawrence: (a) what is the current total number of federal employees in the riding; and (b) what is the total number of anticipated job reductions in the riding for the fiscal year (i) 2012-2013, (ii) 2013-2014, (iii) 2014-2015?
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable was very clear: the member's allegations are unfounded and unsubstantiated. No decision was made about the new offices in Thetford Mines during the consolidation of employment insurance activities. These decisions were made by Public Works employees as part of a clear, transparent and fair process.
Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member mentioned, yesterday, I said that the member for Mégantic—L'Érable did not play a role. The process for choosing the space was run by Public Works and Government Services Canada, and it was an open, fair and competitive process.
Mr. Speaker, the current Service Canada centre in Thetford Mines opened five years ago. At the time, that location was chosen by officials from Public Works and Government Services Canada because it was the lowest bidder in a fair and competitive process. The hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable did not play any role.
Mr. Speaker, in Davos, the Prime Minister was probably stuck in his bubble, so he forgot that we have to look after our seniors. In Quebec, the Fédération de l'âge d'or du Québec has 265,000 members, some of whom reside in Mégantic—L'Érable, the riding represented by the Conservative government's Quebec lieutenant.
My question is simple: does he think that retirement age should be raised from 65 to 67, or does he agree with Rita Poulin, one of the presidents of the Saint-Méthode seniors association, that it is not even worth considering?
Whose side is he on: the Prime Minister's or his constituents'?
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's Quebec lieutenant, the Minister of Natural Resources, was also an active participant in the Conservatives' election fraud.
In his riding of Mégantic—L'Érable, he tried to perform a little sleight of hand trick with $20,000 in false invoices. It did not work, however, since he was caught by Elections Canada. The Conservatives have been caught by the Federal Court of Appeal and the director of public prosecutions.
Will the minister pay back the money owed to the people of Mégantic—L'Érable?
Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons should not try to change the channel: it is his government that awards contracts, and we have yet another proof of that.
There is a disturbing fact in this story. There was no call for tenders when Multivesco, a few months after making contributions in the riding of Mégantic—L'Érable, was awarded a $300 million contract—again, this is not peanuts—for the construction of a federal building.
Will the Minister of Natural Resources and Quebec Conservative lieutenant admit that this is a system under which contracts are awarded and partisan contributions to the Conservative Party are expected?
Mr. Speaker, it is not just in the riding of Bourassa that businesses—at least seven of them—were awarded contracts from the government and returned the favour by contributing to the Conservative Party fund. In the riding of Mégantic—L'Érable, of the then Minister of Public Works, two Multivesco officials each gave $1,000 and, a few months later, got a $300 million contract from the federal government.
Will the Minister of Natural Resources admit that, with at least eight such cases proven, this clearly looks like a scheme?
The electoral district of Mégantic--L'Érable (Quebec) has a population of 87,078 with 69,864 registered voters and 196 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.