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Will the Prorogation of Parliament Hurt Canadian Children?
Bill C-22, intended to raise the age of sexual consent form 14 to 16, dies as a result of prorogation. It has passed the House of Commons but sits unpassed in the Senate.

On September 4th, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his intention to prorogue Parliament – a decision which has the potential to negatively affect Canadian children. When Parliament is prorogued the Parliamentary session is brought to an end and most unfinished business dies, committees cease to function and are started fresh in the next session of Parliament (i.e. after Parliament resumes on October 16th, 2007). One of the Bills that dies as a result of prorogation has passed the House of Commons but sits unpassed in the Senate – Bill C-22, Age of Protection, which would raise the age of sexual consent from age 14 to 16.

What we can hope for is that the government introduces a motion that Bill C-22 be reinstated as having passed all stages in the House of Commons.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has long advocated raising the age of sexual consent. A country’s legal age of consent to sexual activity beyond the question of sexual activity among young teens into areas of child abuse and sexual exploitation, child prostitution and child pornography. Children must be protected from exploit sexual relationships with adults.

Canada’s low age of sexual consent, currently 14, makes our children vulnerable to sexual exploitation from adults especially from sexual predators who use the Internet to lure children. Statistics Canada reports over 61 percent of Canadian homes are connected to the Internet. Various police services have reported to Parliament that when undercover police pose as 13-year-old children on Internet chat lines, discussions move towards sex in less than one minute. Children and youths’ ready access to the Internet and the prevalence of sexual predators who use the Internet to lure children means that this issue must be urgently addressed by parents and our federal legislators.

Parents have the responsibility to educate their children on how to use the Internet safely. Parliament has the responsibility to pass legislation that gives law enforcement officers the tools they need to crack down on Internet luring.

This is where the prorogation of Parliament might potentially hurt Canadian children. Bill C-22 passed through the House of Commons on May 4, 2007 and died in a Senate Committee when Parliament was prorogued. Unless Parliament votes to reinstate the Bill, it will die. This Bill has been before Parliament since June, 2006. Every day the Bill is delayed places Canadian youth in unnecessary danger. What we can hope for is that the government introduces a motion that Bill C-22 be reinstated as having passed all stages in the House of Commons. If the motion passes, the Bill starts at the beginning stages (again) in the Senate. If the government does not introduce a motion, or the motion fails to pass, the Bill dies – to the determinant of the safety of Canadian youth.

For the sake and protection of Canadian youth, Parliament must be urged to reinstate this legislation at the earliest opportunity. You are encouraged to contact your local Member of Parliament to let him or her know how important this Bill is to you. The House Leaders of the Parties in the House of Commons help coordinate the priority given to legislation. They should also be contacted and asked that Bill C-22 be one of the first items on the agenda for the new session of Parliament.

The prorogation of Parliament is an opportunity for the government to clean the slate and get a fresh start. This can be a time to move C-22 to the top of the list – so that it can be passed into Law before the year’s end. Canadian children deserve the protection this Bill would offer.

To assist you in engaging Parliamentarians on this issue, below is a list of Members of Parliament you may wish to contact along with your MP:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
The Honourable Stéphan Dion, Leader of the Official Opposition
Jack Layton, MP, Leader of the NDP
Gilles Duceppe, MP, Leader of the Bloc Quebécois
The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice
The Honourable Peter Van Loan, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Liberal House Leader
Libby Davies, MP, NDP House Leader
Pierre A Paquette, MP, Bloc Québécois House Leader

Douglas Cryer is the director of public policy for The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

 

 
 
 
 

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