Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is vowing to crack down on child abusers, saying a future government under his leadership would bring in mandatory minimum jail sentences of five years for those convicted of sexually abusing children.
Mr. Scheer said too often there are cases of people found guilty of abusing and sexually assaulting children who serve sentences that he says are too short for the crime.
“I want to make sure the sentences served by these people are not less than five years,” said Mr. Scheer, speaking in French in Delson, Que.
As a father of five children, Mr. Scheer said he wants to be able to look parents in the eye and say, “I’ve done everything in my power to make Canada a safer place in which to raise your kids.”
He said a Conservative government would ensure that the justice system considered the length and seriousness of the abuse in sentencing decisions, that it would “put the rights of victims before those of criminals” and that anybody who sexually exploits or abuses a child will go behind bars “for a very long time.”
Mr. Scheer also said that in 2017, there were more than 8,000 incidents of sexual violence against children in Canada and he took aim at the governing Liberals for failing to introduce new legislation for sexual offences against children. He also accused the Liberals of intending to repeal mandatory minimum sentences.
“The current government has a responsibility to make sure that people are safe in this country and I would take that responsibility very, very seriously,” he said.
Currently in Canada, the mandatory minimum imposed on individuals for committing most crimes against children is one year, but sentences vary depending on the crime and the child’s age. The Criminal Code has a number of provisions that cover sexual interference and sexual exploitation that carry minimum and maximum penalties depending on the nature of a charge.
David Taylor, a spokesman for Justice Minister David Lametti, said Mr. Scheer’s proposals “ignore” the fact that the Criminal Code already mandates serious jail time for those convicted of offences against children.
“For example, there is a 14-year maximum for sexual offences as well as for aggravated assault. If a restricted weapon is used in the crime, life imprisonment – the harshest penalty available under Canadian law – is a possibility. Life sentences are also available in cases involving the kidnapping, forcible confinement and human trafficking of children,” he said.
Mr. Taylor said the Conservative Party proposal “won’t protect children,” adding it will cause delays and possible stays in charges as lawyers argue its constitutionality. He also said the government has not committed to repealing all mandatory minimums, saying it is necessary to look at sentencing reform “with a mind to ensuring we make reforms that stand the test of time.
“In other words, reforms that will not get tossed by the courts, and provide appropriate punishments for the crimes committed.”
This is Mr. Scheer’s second tough-on-crime policy announcement this week, as the Tory leader slowly lays out his policies as he makes his way across Ontario and Quebec.
On Wednesday, Mr. Scheer announced in Aylmer, Ont., his party’s plan to combat human trafficking, promising to provide funding for police and victim services. He also wants to amend the Criminal Code to make it easier to convict people accused of human trafficking.
In 2012, the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper created a four-year strategy to fight human trafficking; it expired shortly after the Liberals took office. In Quebec on Thursday, Mr. Scheer said the Liberals’ move to cancel the initiative was cold and that a Conservative government would bring in the “toughest possible legislation to put people found guilty of human trafficking behind bars where they should be.”