TORONTO – Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced tougher laws for child sex offences on Thursday, trumpeting the proposed legislation as the most comprehensive attack against sex crimes on kids.
“We’re doing this because every victim matters, because every child matters,” Harper said at an event in Toronto.
“Our goal is a Canada where all of our children are safe all the time and everywhere.”
The proposed legislation would ensure sentencing takes into account when someone has committed offences against multiple children.
The new measures would see those people serve consecutive sentences for each child they have victimized.
“Sadly there are truly evil people out there. The fact is we don’t understand them and we don’t particularly care to. We understand only that they must be dealt with,” Harper said.
“To protect our children we must create a justice system that is more responsive to victims and especially more responsive to children and to the families of children who have been victimized by sexual predators.”
Harper’s Conservative government has brought in a number of mandatory minimum penalties for various crimes over the years and this law would increase both minimum and maximum penalties for child sexual offences.
The government is also looking to ensure the spouse of a person charged with child pornography offences could be obliged to testify in court.
Harper said the proposed legislation would overhaul a system that had become “very unbalanced” when it came to protecting child sex abuse victims.
He singled out the case of Gordon Stuckless as an example.
The 64-year-old — who was once an usher at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens — was originally convicted in 1997 for sex assaults on 24 boys while he worked at the famed hockey arena between 1969 and 1988.
Harper pointed out that Stuckless was originally sentenced to two years less a day, a sentence which led to the suicide of the victim who brought the sex abuse scandal to light.
Stuckless’ sentence was later increased to five years and he was out on parole in 2001 after serving two-thirds of it.
He now faces nearly 100 fresh charges, all laid in the past year, which relate to alleged offences that took place decades ago.
“There have been gaps in our justice system,” said Harper. “These gaps show that the system did not properly value our most precious and valuable treasures — our children.”