I am pleased to speak to Bill C-26, the Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act, at Third Reading. This is a critical piece of legislation and we should all support its important objectives.
Bill C-26 would strengthen our existing approach to protecting children from sexual predators by building on numerous recent initiatives in that regard. I am pleased that our Government has implemented a number of important initiatives, including:
- raising the age of consent to sexual activity — also known as the age of protection — from 14 to 16 years (Tackling Violent Crime Act, 2008);
- requiring those who provide Internet services to the public to report when they are advised of an Internet address where child pornography may be available to the public (Act respecting the mandatory reporting of
Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, 2011);
- requiring all those convicted of sexual offences abroad to report to a police service within 7 days of arriving in Canada (Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders Act, 2011); and,
- creating two new offences prohibiting anyone from providing sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that child (section 171.1), and prohibiting anyone from using any means of telecommunications, including the Internet, to agree or make arrangements with another person for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against a child (section 172.2) (Safe Streets and Communities Act, 2012) — to name a few.
Unquestionably, our Government has worked hard to protect children from sexual predators and we continue to do so, as is currently reflected in Bill C-26’s proposed reforms. Our children deserve no less.
Available statistics paint a disturbing picture of sexual offending against children, both at home and abroad. Sadly, this type of offending has been facilitated by the Internet, which may play a role in the recent increases in police-reported child sexual offences. The most recent statistics indicate a 6% increase in 2013, as compared to 2012. This includes a 30% increase in police-reported incidents of luring a child via a computer (section 172.1), an 11% increase in police-reported incidents of sexual exploitation (section 153) and a 21% increase in police-reported incidents of child pornography offences (section 163.1).
Furthermore, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, which operates Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tip line for reporting online sexual exploitation of children, provided the Committee on Justice and Human Rights with data that also cause deep concern. Specifically, they have received 125,000 reports from the public since 2004, when Cybertip.ca was launched. The majority of these reports related to images that are online and that depict children being sexually abused. The Centre noted that in the 2014-2015 fiscal year alone, their child protection analysts assessed and categorized over 6,000 images of child pornography. Disturbingly, 69% of these images depicted children under the age of 12.
These numbers are telling us that more must be done. And Bill C-26 does just that. First, it increases penalties for certain child sexual offences, including child pornography, which has become a global scourge, as the statistics show. Child pornography does not just harm the children who are abused in the images. Child pornography harms all children by sending the abhorrent message that it is acceptable for adults to use children for their own sexual gratification.
To better denounce and deter this crime, Bill C-26 would increase both mandatory minimum and maximum penalties for possessing and accessing child pornography. Moreover, Bill C-26 would make the most serious child pornography offences, making and distributing child pornography (subsections 163.1(2) and (3)), strictly indictable, with a mandatory minimum penalty of one year and a maximum penalty of 14 years, to reflect the severity of these crimes and the harmful impact they have on children.
The Supreme Court of Canada has commented on the pervasive nature of the harm caused by this type of offending in its 2008 L.M. decision:
“I note that L.M. disseminated his pornography around the world over the Internet. The use of this medium can have serious consequences for a victim. Once a photograph has been posted on the Web, it can be accessed indefinitely, from anywhere in the world. [The victim] will never know whether a pornographic photograph or video in which she appears might not resurface someday.”
In addition to its proposed penalty increases, Bill C-26 also requires judges to impose consecutive sentences in cases where offenders are sentenced at the same time for contact child sexual offences and child pornography offences, and where offenders are sentenced at the same time for contact child sexual offences against multiple victims.
No more sentence discounts for prolific child sexual offenders. Every victim matters. These are some of
Bill C-26’s critical messages — messages that serve the important objectives of denunciation and deterrence, which, as our Criminal Code appropriately clarifies, are paramount in cases involving the abuse of a child (section 718.01).
That is not all. Bill C-26 also proposes to increase the maximum penalties for breaches of supervision orders, which impose conditions on suspected or convicted offenders and are intended to prevent offending and protect children. We cannot ignore the fact that all breaches of such orders indicate a risk to children. That is why it is imperative that offenders are held accountable for breaching conditions imposed to protect children.
In a similar vein, Bill C-26 would also ensure that evidence that an offence was committed while the offender was subject to a conditional sentence order, on parole or on statutory release is considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. Offenders who re-offend while subject to conditions imposed to protect those they have harmed should be held to account, not just for the new offence, but also for their violation of the conditions themselves. This is the appropriate way to effectively denounce violations of such conditions.
Sadly, strengthening our approach to these crimes may create an even greater risk that opportunistic child sex offenders will go abroad to find victims in countries whose legal systems are not as robust as ours. This is why Bill C-26 includes measures that will strengthen our ability to monitor child sexual offenders who travel abroad. For example, Bill C-26 would require registered child sex offenders to report the dates and destination of any planned travel, whether within or outside of Canada. It would also authorize information sharing in respect of registered sex offenders between the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency officials. This will assist Canadian officials in working with their international counterparts to prevent offending abroad and in implementing a 2011 reform that requires all those convicted of sexual offences abroad to report to a police service within 7 days of arriving in Canada.
These measures, in addition to the proposed new High Risk Child Sex Offender Database, also proposed by Bill C-26, address the dangers and risks posed by child sexual offenders. I trust that these are reforms that we can all support. I know that we are all committed to protecting children from harm. Toward that end, I urge all Honourable members to join me in support of this important Bill.