A proposal that would require convicted sex offenders to live at least two kilometres away from their victims is one step closer to becoming law following a House of Commons vote that saw all parties support the measure on Wednesday (Dec. 4).
Langley Conservative MP Mark Warawa’s “Safe at Home” bill was approved by 276-1 vote.
The proposed law now goes to the Senate for final approval.
The Warawa proposal was inspired by the case of a Langley family whose daughter was sexually assaulted by a neighbour, who then served part of his sentence at his home next door to the victim.
“In this case, when an offender has sexually assaulted a young girl for over two years and is then allowed to serve his sentence at home right across from the victim, it was a re-victimization of that victim over and over again,” Warawa told the Commons.
” … this is a big first step in the right direction to providing protection for the victims,” Warawa said.
“Victims need rights too.”
Malpeque, Prince Edward Island Liberal MP Wayne Easter was concerned the law might not survive a Charter of Rights challenge based on the constitutionality of mandatory minimum sentences.
“When the sponsor of the bill was asked in the House during second reading about his consultations prior to the bill’s introduction as to whether the amendments proposed in the bill would meet a court challenge related to the charter, the member indicated that he had consulted, but he provided no evidence as to whom he had consulted,” Easter said.
“That I did find troubling.”
Easter went on to say that while the intent of the law deserved support, it was not clear how often offenders actually end up living near their victims.
” … what remains troubling is that no evidence as to the extent of the problem is apparently available, and it should be,” Easter said.
La Pointe-de-l’Île, Quebec NDP MP Ève Péclet was a strong supporter, calling the proposed law a “very important measure.”
“This bill helps victims, defends their interests and gives them their rightful place in the justice system, all without unduly restricting the courts,” Péclet said.
“That is what makes this such an excellent bill.”
Following the Commons vote, Warawa said he hoped the law will win final approval from the Senate before the summer.
“It is an honour to receive overwhelming support for my bill,” Warawa said.
“C-489 will go a long way toward ensuring that victims and their families can feel safe in their own homes and communities.”
The law will amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act so that child sexual offenders will be forbidden from coming within two kilometres of a victim’s dwelling, or an appropriate distance specified by the court.
The “safe at home” bill was introduced by Warawa after he failed to get a controversial private member’s motion to condemn the practice of aborting fetuses based on their gender through the committee stage.
The motion won the Langley’s MP major media attention, much of it speculation that the law would effectively reopen the abortion debate in Canada.
Reportedly under pressure by the Prime Minister’s Office, Warawa withdrew that motion, committing to continue discussions about gender selection in other public forums.
– with files from Monique Tamminga