Thank you very much.
Thank you, everyone.
First of all, thank you to our master of ceremonies, Minister Wong.
Delighted to be here in your riding.
Also, I'd like to thank Minister Blaney for his gracious introduction, and congratulations once again on your appointment to this position.
Welcome also to my other colleagues from British Columbia who are here today: Mark Strahl, Yonah Kim-Martin, Nina Grewal, Dan Albus, Wai Young.
Thank you, everybody, for being in attendance.
Greetings also to our distinguished guests, to Tom Stamatakis of the Canadian Police Association, to Jim Chu, obviously chief of the Vancouver Police Department, and Jamie Graham, chief of the Victoria Police Department, and of course, welcome... I also would like to give my welcome to all the great members of the Canada Border Services Agency who are here today.
Today, as Minister Blaney mentioned, we are continuing our focus on the protection of the most precious and vulnerable members of our society, our children.
As I’ve said before, we do not understand why child predators do the heinous things they do, and in all frankness, we don’t particularly care to.
What we do understand is that there are some terrible people out there, criminals of the worst kind, and that they must be dealt with.
In focusing on the protection of victims and law abiding citizens, our Government is shifting the focus, changing the very balance of past practices in Canada because we believe that in matters of criminal justice, particularly those involving children, the rights of victims and their families and not the rights of criminals must come first.
Since 2006, our Government has taken a significant number of actions to better protect children.
We’ve put in place new mandatory prison sentences for seven existing criminal code sexual offences.
We’ve outlawed the child predatory practices referred to as “grooming”.
We’ve made illegal the use of computers or other means of telecommunications to plan an offence against a child.
We’ve increased the age of protection from 14 to 16 years.
And we’ve legislated the mandatory reporting of child pornography by Internet services providers.
These are all concrete measures that protect Canadian children and their families.
But, friends, our work is not yet complete.
Gaps in information sharing between government agencies are hampering our ability to monitor and catch child predators, especially those who victimize children beyond our borders.
Allow me to give an example.
A few years ago, Howard Cotterman, a registered American sex offender, entered the United States after returning from a vacation in Mexico.
His home state, California, had alerted US border guards of his past crimes.
State officials warned border agents that his travel patterns suggested he might be involved in child sex tourism.
And so at the border, agents interviewed Cotterman, searching his laptop and camera.
They found that the laptop contained hundreds of images of Cotterman repeatedly molesting a girl under ten years old.
So Cotterman was apprehended basically through information sharing.
However, if Cotterman were Canadian, under our current practices, this might not have happened.
Gaps in information collection and sharing as well as gaps in enforcement mean child predators can slip over our borders unmonitored.
That is going to change.
Therefore I’m announcing today that this fall MPs will be asked to consider tough new legislation so that we can do all we can to stop the child predators here and around the world.
The upcoming Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act, which I have previously announced, will include further amendments, further amendments to the criminal code, and the sex offender information registry.
These amendments will create a database of high risk child predators that is online, national, and publicly accessible.
This national registry will replace the patchwork of registries that currently exist in Canada.
The Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act will also make it more difficult for people who travel abroad to prey on children.
It will require that high risk sex offenders provide Canadian police with advanced notice of international travel.
The act will further authorize police and government agencies to inform Canadian Border Guards about these travel plans so that from now on, such offenders will be carefully monitored by Canada.
Thus, when a child predator plans upcoming travel abroad, Canadian officials must, where appropriate, warn destination countries that a dangerous offender is heading their way.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, these measures that I’ve just outlined will be part of the most comprehensive law to combat sex crimes against children ever enacted in this country.
And these reforms will also take into account our responsibilities to protect children everywhere.
Just as we must protect Canadian children, we should do what we can to protect innocent kids beyond our borders.
So today we are also sending a clear message to the criminals who shame our nation by preying on children abroad.
Ladies and gentlemen...
While no words can ease the pain of a child whose life has been shattered by a predator, we can say this: we have heard you, and we are taking action.
Our goal, and I know the goal of everybody in this room is this: a society that is safe all the time and everywhere for our most precious and our most vulnerable members, our children.
We will do everything we can to pursue this goal, because every victim matters, because every child matters.