Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC)
|| That, in the opinion of the House, for greater certainty, the government should take steps to ensure that counselling a person to commit suicide or aiding or abetting a person to commit suicide is an offence under section 241 of the Criminal Code, regardless of the means used to counsel or aid or abet including via telecommunications, the Internet or a computer system.
He said: Madam Speaker, I rise today to discuss the need to update one section of our country's laws. We all know someone who has been touched by depression. Too many of us are aware of incidents where this depression has led to suicide.
Our society has long recognized that vulnerable people require the protection of the law. That is the purpose behind section 241 of Canada's Criminal Code which makes it illegal to counsel someone to commit suicide.
The need for section 241 has not changed. The goals of section 241 remain as important today as ever.
Since section 241 was last updated, however, our society has changed. The result is that while the law intends to make counselling suicide illegal, new circumstances appear to have opened loopholes as the wording in section 241 may need updating.
Depression and suicide are not issues that any one of us takes pleasure in speaking about. By speaking of them openly, however, I believe we can remove the shrouds of shame and secrecy that often serve only to perpetuate myths and empower predators.
In an age of such rapid progress in the worlds of economics, space travel, health care, scientific research and many other sectors, it is a sad commentary that so many of our youth with such great potential have come to the point of desperation and cannot find a way out other than to end it all.
With the support of friends and loved ones, there are much better choices. They can become healthy and live productive lives full of hope and purpose.
We all know that adolescence and early adulthood is a time of dramatic change. The journey to adulthood is complex and challenging. There are immense pressures to succeed at school, at home and in community social groups.
In the U.S., suicide rates among youth aged 15 to 24 have tripled in the past half-century. For every youth suicide completion, there are nearly 400 suicide attempts.
Right here in Canada suicide is the second highest cause of death for Canadian youth aged 10 to 24. Each year on average 294 youth die from suicide in Canada and many more attempt suicide.
For our youth, during the challenges of moving into adulthood, when an added stressor, such as moving from home to college or university or losing a family member or friend or having parents divorce, is added to the mix of an already complex social environment, all too often the future looks entirely hopeless. Tragic actions lead to the loss of lives that have so much potential.
Each of us in this chamber has gone through periods of discouragement and perhaps depression, or at least we have family members and friends who struggle with depression and mental health issues.
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could ask for order.
Mr. Harold Albrecht:
Mr. Speaker, I will add those few seconds to my time.
For some people, these downtimes might be a fleeting emotion that lasts only for a few hours or days. For others, it may drag on for weeks, months or even years. In these times of feeling overwhelmed, discouraged or depressed, many have had the thought of ending it all in order to avoid the ongoing pain.
For those who experience shorter periods of depression, hopefully we will be able to remember the famous adage “this too shall pass” and we wait and work toward brighter days. Periodic bouts of depression for those with shorter episodes are troubling, deep, dark valleys in the journey of life, but experience and encouragement from fellow travellers tell us that this is a normal part of human life.
For youth, however, they may not have yet had the life experience or may not have found a trusted friend who lets them know that difficult situations will not last forever.
In this very crucial period of days that seem to never end, or weeks, months or even years, it is absolutely essential that every resource is deployed in order to counteract the overwhelming helpless feelings and to provide hope and encouragement.
Unfortunately, it is exactly at these lowest points in life where predators can change the picture irreversibly. Rather than pointing to a brighter future and offering help to access resources to help and encourage the one who is suffering, these predators counsel depressed individuals to throw away the very gift of life.
In March 2008 in Ottawa, Nadia, a Carleton University student, was going through a period of depression when an Internet predator encouraged her to take her own life. In fact, this online friend allegedly said that she would end her own life on the same day. It was only Nadia that followed through, jumping from a bridge into the Rideau River.
The online friend turned out to be a 46-year-old licensed practical male nurse from Minnesota who allegedly lurked as a predator in online chat rooms. He has also admitted to U.S. police that he coaxed at least five different people to commit suicide using the Internet. This was a premeditated act.
The premature ending of Nadia's life is a tragedy that should have been prevented. Nadia had every promise of a bright future ahead of her. Nadia aspired to enter the fields of law and politics. She presented both the aptitude and the attitude to achieve both of those goals. Nadia was accepted and enrolled in Carleton University where she studied for only a short duration and her goals were never realized.
Stories like Nadia's make it necessary to clarify our laws in order to remove any doubt surrounding the issue of counselling to commit suicide by use of the Internet.
I ask my colleagues to listen to Nadia's mother in excerpts taken directly from her message in a press conference earlier this year as she asked each of us as members of Parliament to do all that we can to clarify and update Canadian law. Her mother stated, “I'm very pleased to be here today to show support for a motion put forth calling for clarification to our existing laws on assisting and counselling a person to commit suicide. The clarification is designed to make it clear to everyone that this type of crime is a criminal offence regardless of the means used”.
She goes on to say, “These changes will send a message to Internet predators that they will indeed face criminal charges for their actions. It will make it abundantly clear to the police that they are expected to investigate these crimes and pursue criminal charges, and most importantly, when that is not done as it should be, it will give victims' families the ability to demand action from the authorities”.
She continues by saying, “Nadia did not want to die. When she became depressed Nadia did seek professional help. Unfortunately, her search for help also led her to a predator intent on feeding on her illness. Nadia wanted to live. Nadia had a right to live. We as a society need to protect the vulnerable among us”.
She goes on to say, “One thing that has now been brought to light is that this predator is not alone. There are many more just like him out there. And when things go wrong in our lives, or in the lives of the people we love, they'll be out there - hunting. Hunting for just that opportune moment. It is with all this in mind that I hope each of you lends your support and helps to send a clear message that we expect those criminals to be prosecuted.
It appears that Nadia's family members and others may have been misled by Canada's current laws pertaining to counselling to commit suicide. In fact, section 241 of the Criminal Code does make it illegal to counsel someone to commit suicide, and it provides penalties for up to 14 years of imprisonment for someone convicted of the same. However, the current Criminal Code does not explicitly state that a person who commits an offence under section 241 by means of telecommunications, the Internet or a computer system is also guilty of an offence under that section.
The story of Nadia is a troubling one. Transcripts, which were released by the Ottawa Citizen, of the conversation between Nadia and the predator clearly show the predator taking advantage of Nadia in her vulnerable state. He manages to enter into a false pact with Nadia, again under the guise of a young woman with similar problems.
Stories like this make it necessary to clarify our laws. In our Internet age, we need to make it clear that the use of technology where one might presume to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet is not a defence against prosecution for very serious criminal offences.
I have three children and eight grandchildren. Many of my grandchildren are already using the Internet for education and entertainment. I want to ensure that my family is safe and that individuals like Nadia are protected from online predators.
The current section 241 of the Criminal Code states that everyone who counsels a person to commit suicide or aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.
I propose that the current section 241 of the Criminal Code be amended to include subsequent subsections that build on the current section 241 to clarify that the use of computer systems, telecommunications or Internet is also explicitly included in that section.
Preying on a vulnerable individual like Nadia Kajouji should be punishable. While the Internet is deemed as a haven of free speech, it is important to protect individuals like Nadia from committing suicide at the encouragement of a predator.
I call on government legal experts to address the principles that are included in my suggestions and to craft appropriate legislation that will close any possible loopholes in our current laws. These changes are needed in order to provide greater protection to those who are at a very vulnerable point in their lives. Predators must be stopped before they repeat their crime. Their destructive deeds will not be tolerated and those predators who choose to ignore the law must face severe consequences.
As Canadians, we are constantly setting examples for the rest of the world as we strive for a better world. We are world leaders on many fronts. We provide care for our elderly and our sick, as well as the unemployed. We provide overseas support in times of catastrophe and we stand up for and defend the freedom of others.
However, on the issue of preventing Internet counselling to commit suicide, we are not world leaders. In fact, we are behind many other countries on this issue. Countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have been working rigorously to introduce amendments to their criminal code that would make using the Internet, among other media, to counsel someone to commit suicide illegal. In fact, Australia has managed to change its law and, as of 2005, has made it illegal to counsel someone to commit suicide via the Internet. This has also occurred in parts of the United States. Early this year a bill was introduced to amend title 18 of the United States code to prohibit the use of interstate commerce for suicide promotion.
I encourage Canadians and members of Parliament from all parties to continue to show their support for Motion No. 388 and I urge the Canadian government to make amendments to the current Criminal Code. I have received over 8,000 signatures in support of this initiative.
My concern is for vulnerable Canadians. The changes called for in Motion No. 388 are needed in order to provide greater protection to those who are at a very vulnerable point in their lives. Predators must be stopped before they repeat their crime. Their destructive deeds will not be tolerated and predators who choose to ignore the deterrent message need to know that they will face severe consequences.
I would remind all members of the House that Motion No. 388 does not seek to expand the scope of Canadian law, criminalize any new activities or add penalties to crimes, but in the case of Internet suicide counselling, the computer system and the use of the Internet is an integral part of the offence, and that point needs to be made very clear.
Some members of the House believe that our existing laws already make this behaviour a crime. I would like to believe they are correct but the predator who drove Nadia to her death remains free without charges. If this crime is already covered under section 241 of Canada's Criminal Code, why have no charges been laid?
As Nadia's grieving mother noted:
||...as long as there are predators who believe the Internet is some kind of exclusive sanctuary and as long as there are police officers who believe, for some unwritten reason, that the Internet is not governed by our existing laws, this clarification is very much needed.
I call upon all members of the House to support my Motion No. 388 which would provide our youth with the protection they deserve.
Mr. Alan Tonks (York South—Weston, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I thank and congratulate the member for Kitchener—Conestoga on raising this issue through his private member's motion, Motion No. 388.
When we talk about the sanctity of life, it is the full spectrum of life. The motion deals with life as it basically applies to young people who are tormented by their day to day demons, which statistics indicate are on the increase as they try to adapt to modern society. Our heart goes out, through this motion, to try to deal with that situation through the Criminal Code. It focuses on existing predators who are observant of the needs of young people and are going to exploit them.
The member pointed out the situation that occurred at Carleton University. A young student named Nadia Kajouji was tormented by the nature of adapting to Canadian society and to the university. She was looking for help and she thought that help was coming through Internet communication. That turned out to be her murderer, or one who advised her to take her own life. I use the term murderer advisedly. I know it probably does not bear up to Criminal Code scrutiny, but I think that anyone who advises under those circumstances, knowing what the end result is going to be, is guilty of that particular act.
It is interesting that the last question also dealt with assisted suicide, which is an issue that will be before us through other legislation. I had not intended on addressing that, but I was looking at other documentation that has been before the House. Reports were done in 1995 and 2000 with respect to the need for increased support services to the elderly. At that time, we were finding them in a position where they were taking their own lives. The issue came up again as to whether under those circumstances, with medical support and advice, assisted suicide was ethical and moral and whether we should support it.
The entitlement of the report is still not there and here we are again trying to address that issue because no initiatives were taken. I think the whole House is in agreement that the issue is not whether there should be better advice for those who want to commit suicide. The issue is whether the sanctity of life can be protected to the extent that those people can live out their lives in dignity with the support services around them.
The member for Kitchener—Conestoga has given a very excellent overview with respect to where the Criminal Code is not living up to the expectation to protect that sanctity of life. I am not going to take that part. Through the most recent statistics that have been gathered, I will attempt to try to make a case that since young people have a greater probability and propensity because of the kinds of lifestyle and issues that they face, there is a need for us to take the kind of action as suggested.
An article in today's Summerside Journal Pioneer indicated that about 14% of first year students were dropping out. According to Statistics Canada's Youth in Transition Survey, the overall post-secondary dropout rate is about 16%, suggesting that those who are going to drop out do so early in life.
They are doing that for a reason. They are alienated by the system, they are caught up by it and I would suggest they are more prey to those who, in their time of need, would be advising them, in an ill-considered way, as to how to deal with that. This is just an indicator.
Another news item in yesterday's Truro Daily News talked about how Canada's schools were not dealing with failure and that students were struggling in university, but they were struggling in life in general. A Statistics Canada report entitled “Persistence in Post-Secondary Education in Canada: The Latest Research” concluded that 14% of students dropped out in their first year.
We have a problem that we all share in how we protect and enhance the life of our young people. The indicators have not done it successfully and that leaves them more open to exploitation. What the motion is aimed at is dealing with that exploitation of the most dramatic and terrible nature.
I will talk about some of the statistics to which the member referred because, in a very graphic way, they give us an indicator of how serious the situation is.
In two reports through the American College Health Association, and I am quoting these from a survey done by McMaster University, there are indicators that young adults 18 to 24 have the highest prevalence of diagnosable forms of mental illness in the whole population, that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, that 95% of college students who commit suicide suffer from mental illness, usually depression, and that 75% of people with schizophrenia developed the disease between the ages of 15 and 25.
The 2006 survey also points out that 40% of clients had severe psychological problems, 8% so severe that they could not remain in school without extensive psychological help.
In a 2007 survey done by McMaster, it indicates that there is a total lack of support services to deal with those particular mental health problems.
I would conclude, with respect to referring to the statistics, that the statistics from 1988 to 2006 have increased and that suicides are the second or third leading cause of death among students.
Just as I referred to the report based on assisted suicide, we are going to have to come to grips with not having taken action when action was required. We are now going to take action in one particular area, through the Criminal Code, where the statistics indicate the need is huge. We would be derelict, in terms of being parents, teachers and, in fact, responsible members of civil society, if we did not act.
The first action would be through the Criminal Code and this action should be supported by all parties. Second, further research should be done in terms of why these statistics are of the nature they are and how we can reach out to our young people and make them believe they can fulfill their expectations and not—
Mr. Serge Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, as I have already indicated, we plan to vote in favour of the motion, at least at this first stage. While the offence of counselling, encouraging or helping someone commit suicide set out in section 241 of the Criminal Code might seem clear at first glance and seem to cover cases when such acts are committed by means of telecommunications, the Internet or a computer system, in light of certain recent events, we believe that it is our duty as legislators to make sure that is the case. With that in mind, we will support the amendment to the Criminal Code if it proves necessary, although we oppose any unnecessary amendments.
Since 1999, suicide rates have dropped considerably in Quebec. In eight years, from 1999 to 2007, it has dropped by more than 30%. However, with 1,091 deaths in Quebec in 2007, suicide is still a major concern, since it is the second leading cause of death among Quebeckers aged 15 to 19 and, by far, the leading cause of death among those aged 20 to 34. Similarly, among developed nations, Quebec remains in an unenviable position in that regard, although it is not the worst.
I must say, I was not surprised when I read those statistics. When I was in university, I was very involved in the student newspaper, and when I ran it, I began a series of news stories on sociological topics of interest to students. For instance, we ran a story on married students, and another one on student deaths.
In 1964—I know I look younger than that—we discovered that traffic accidents were the leading cause of death among students, but the second cause was suicide. So we ran a series of stories on student suicides. However, back then, Quebec was in a rather better position. Our rates were among the lowest of the countries on the list. By far the most suicides were found in the Scandinavian countries. However, at the time—in 1964—the Scandinavian countries were generally more likely to recognize suicide, whereas even in a society like Quebec or Canadian society, at the time we were more likely to look for other possible reasons for the death, before declaring it a suicide. Some people considered it shameful to admit that someone in their family had committed suicide.
Given the importance of this issue today, the Bloc Québécois believes that it is imperative to consider all options to further curtail this phenomenon. For this reason, the Bloc Québécois will support the motion.
We believe that it is important to ensure that counselling or aiding and abetting suicide is an offence, no matter the means used—including telecommunications, the Internet or a computer system.
At first glance, section 241 of the Criminal Code seems sufficiently clear and comprehensive, as confirmed by David Paciocco, a law professor at the University of Ottawa. According to this expert, the Criminal Code, as it exists, already allows charges to be laid against an individual who uses the Internet to encourage a victim to commit suicide. That is my opinion as well.
In view of this, we wondered whether it was advisable to support this motion. In fact, since arriving in Ottawa, the Bloc Québécois has adopted the following approach: act responsibly. Amending an article of the Criminal Code to add an unnecessary detail is not an example of that.
It could even have the opposite effect because such changes may weaken rather than strengthen a provision. I am convinced that no parliamentarian wants that. However, I must add that the wording of the motion avoids this risk. That was my opinion when I read it over carefully.
The failure to prosecute in the case of Nadia Kajouji's suicide was troubling. Ms. Kajouji was an 18-year-old student at Carleton University who took her own life in March 2008 by jumping off a bridge into the Rideau Canal. The newspapers reported that she was extremely depressed and that a malicious Internet contact, who was posing as a young woman in the same circumstances, had urged her to hang herself in front of her webcam. That person was identified. He is William Melchert-Dinkel, a 46-year old Minnesota nurse.
The police force in charge of the investigation in Canada did not give a reason for its decision not to press charges, which is disturbing.
According to professor Paciocco, whom I mentioned earlier, the fact that the offence was committed on the Internet may complicate the investigation but should not preclude a trial in Canada.
According to this legal expert, there is no real problem of jurisdiction in a case like this. In the case of cybercrime, the communication received in Canada creates a link between the accused and the victim that is strong enough to give Canadian courts jurisdiction.
But although this type of crime is fortunately rare, it does sometimes occur, and it has led to charges and a guilty verdict. For example, Gerald Klein was convicted after entering into a suicide pact on the Internet in 2005 in Oregon.
In Canada, section 241 has not been tested in the case of counselling on the Internet. That is why we want to ensure that it is adequate and clearly understood by the police.
Before moving on to other considerations, I want to point out—and I believe that this is the intention of the person who introduced the motion—that we are not talking about assisted suicide involving someone who is terminally ill and experiencing prolonged, unbearable suffering. That is a topic for another day.
We agree that this offence must exist and that this section must be enforced. I appreciate that the motion has been carefully worded. I cannot say the same for other laws I have criticized recently. The motion has been carefully worded to apply only to the cases we agree on.
Of course, changing the Criminal Code will have only a minimal impact on suicide in Canada and Quebec. There are other, more effective things we could do, such as dropping the attack on the Canadian firearms registry. Simply possessing a firearm increases the chances of suicide fivefold. That is what I am told, but I suspect it applies when people are contemplating suicide and have access to a gun. I do not think that possession alone creates the risk of suicide, but when the intent is there and the gun is available, the chances go up. As such, thanks to the buy-back program it includes, the Canadian firearms registry has helped to limit possession of firearms to those who really wanted them.
One section of the Criminal Code provides that when those close to a depressed person know that he or she has one or more firearms, they can ask a judge for an order to seize the firearms and confiscate them until medical exams show that they can be returned without risk. That has happened several times.
Some people got their firearms back after recovering from their depression. People fighting suicide believe that this is a useful provision and one of the good—
Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I was prepared to give my Bloc colleague another minute, but I will go ahead now.
This issue that brings us before the House today is one that obviously gives all parties, all members of Parliament, and all Canadians for that matter, a great deal of concern.
I know from my own experiences, in dealing with people who are depressed or confronting great problems in their personal lives, just how vulnerable they are. I do not think it is possible for any of us, without actually having been to that depth of depression and levels of vulnerability, to really appreciate that, but it is very real. I suppose most scary in this regard is the fact that there are perpetrators out there who would prey upon that vulnerability. We have seen that in the case of the Ottawa student and in several other cases as well.
It is quite appropriate and very timely that this motion is before the House. I believe the government, the Department of Justice in particular, needs to be looking into this area and seeing if there are ways that we can tighten up either under the Criminal Code or in other areas to, as much as possible, prevent this type of predatory activity.
I do have a couple of suggestions in that regard. In particular, when we deal with the Ottawa case of Nadia Kajouji, that person has in fact not been charged. Like the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, I have been following the case very closely. The person has not been charged and it begs the question of why not.
If in fact we find that the U.S. federal government and the state of Minnesota in particular do not have mechanisms in place to charge him, then it is crucial that we put those mechanisms in place here in Canada. It would take a two-phase approach to this.
First, we would have to create a specific crime dealing with the issue of this type of counselling over a broad range of telecommunications and have wording broad enough to cover telecommunication developments that are still coming.
Once we have done that and made it a very specific crime in Canada to counsel suicide in this way, we then would have to be clear within our extradition treaties that that would be an offence for which we could extradite people from any place in the world, if in fact the crime had been committed either in Canada, that is, it was perpetrated here, or it was perpetrated in Canada on one of our citizens or residents.
We have some precedents for that, particularly in the sexual assault cases elsewhere in the world, that we will prosecute in this country under any circumstances. There are a couple of other precedents, so this is doable, but it is something that we would be pressing the justice department to look at once this motion gets to committee.
The other area in which we could be doing some work is simply looking at section 241 of the Criminal Code, which is the section that deals with counselling of suicide. We also could be looking at the criminal negligence sections. It may be more convenient perhaps, more in keeping with those sections, to create a new offence there of counselling suicide using telecommunication mechanisms that result in death. That may be a better tool, a better section of the Criminal Code to look at.
Those are two areas that we could be dealing with, specifically with the Criminal Code and our extradition treaties.
The other area that I believe we have to look at, and this is more along the lines of prevention as opposed to reacting to the crime having been committed, is the regulation of the Internet. My colleague from Timmins—James Bay was telling me today, and I was not aware of this, that one can actually go online to certain websites where people are actually demonstrating their attempts to commit suicide. He believes that on one or two occasions a suicide has actually been committed live, with people watching and not intervening. In addition, we know from any number of cases of the number of suicide chat rooms that are on the Internet.
There are some lessons to be learned from what we have done to combat child pornography on the Internet. We need to compel those who provide service to the Internet to monitor these chat rooms. Some of these chat rooms are actually beneficial because they are a form of counselling. They aid people in their depression and help them with their mental health problems.
However, if this counselling actually crosses the line into counselling the act of suicide, then those sites need to be shut down. The servers who provide that service need to be directed that it is their responsibility to monitor these sites and shut them down if actual counselling of suicide is identified. That has begun to be fairly effective in the child pornography area.
Canada is taking some lead in this in terms of tracing those sites and then shutting them down. There is some precedent for us to be able to follow.
The combined approach of both strengthening our provisions within the Criminal Code to deal with the crime within this country or even extra-territorially and working much more preventively with the Internet is absolutely imperative.
I have been following some of the debate on this issue in the United States. There has been an ongoing debate there about limiting freedom of speech within that context. But as we said with the child pornography issue, there is no issue with another freedom where that kind of abuse is going on.
The same arguments could be made both nationally and internationally to restrict those sites and shut them down if there is this kind of active counselling of suicide.
Those are the suggestions I have for my colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga. I congratulate him on moving as rapidly as he has on this issue. I urge the government to pick up on these suggestions and on his motion, and perhaps we will actually get some meaningful advancements in preventing these types of suicides.
Mr. Chris Warkentin (Peace River, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I know my time is short this evening but I want to take a few moments, first and foremost, to congratulate and thank the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for bringing forward this motion. This motion speaks to an issue that has, unfortunately, impacted too many people.
When the hon. member brought forward this motion in September of this year, I believe he said that suicide has caused the tragic deaths of far too many Canadians and tonight I have to concur and I think all members in the House would agree.
I would like to go through a number of things. As I said, my time is limited, but I felt it was necessary for us to contemplate the merits of this bill as well as its place in terms of the current Criminal Code provisions.
Section 241 of the Criminal Code makes it an indictable offence to counsel a person to commit suicide. It also provides that it is an offence to assist or encourage someone to commit suicide. It is important to note that it is so, regardless of the means chosen to counsel, encourage or provide assistance, and regardless of whether the person attempts to commit suicide. The maximum penalty provided for this specific offence is 14 years imprisonment.
It is interesting to note that the assisted suicide offence provision in our Criminal Code is very similar to the provisions in force today in England. On September 23 of this year, and it is interesting that this is so timely, the British director of public prosecutions issued an interim policy for prosecutors in respect of cases of assisted suicide.
I would like to mention a few of the relevant points that are in the public interest in Canada as we are contemplating what we need to do to ensure that provisions within our own section are keeping up with the current technologies. The director of public prosecutions outlined a number of points. The first point reads:
|| The suspect persuaded, pressured or maliciously encouraged the victim to commit suicide, or exercised improper influence in the victim's decision to do so; and did not take reasonable steps to ensure that any other person did not do so.
That, obviously, means suicide.
The second point reads:
|| The suspect was unknown to the victim and assisted by providing specific information via, for example, a website or publication, to the victim to assist him or her in committing suicide.
The third point in making clarification reads:
|| The suspect gave assistance to more than one victim who were not known to each other.
The fourth clarification made reads:
|The suspect was a member of an organisation or group, the principal purpose of which is to provide a physical environment (whether for payment or not) in which to allow another to commit suicide.
I mention those specific factors that were found in favour of prosecution on the charge of assisted suicide under legislation that is very similar to ours. As my colleague from the NDP pointed out, there are many ways that we could bring clarification to our current legislation.
However, it is important that our laws be broad and that we not try to name all the different ways in which a person might assist or counsel someone to commit suicide but that we allow for the legislation to be broad enough that it encapsulates any changing technology. I am certain the government will take that into consideration when this bill, hopefully, passes.
Section 241 of our Criminal Code is currently very broad. If charges are laid under this section for actions to be carried out over the Internet, I imagine there will be a number of challenges that the investigators will find problematic, specifically as to how they will collect evidence and the evidentiary burdens of the investigation. However, let this not be a deterrent to pursuing this initiative. For example, we have heard it noted already this evening that in cases of child pornography, which is the same challenge, we are seeing some success on that front.
Let us continue to work together to ensure that the opportunities are limited for those people who counsel and maliciously attack others over the Internet and who use the Internet to perpetrate this crime. I am pleased that my colleague has introduced this motion and has sought to clarify that the assisted suicide offence in section 241 of the Criminal Code needs to include those people who would use the Internet to perpetrate this crime.
As I mentioned at the beginning, it is very important that we as Canadians ensure that our laws keep up with the advanced technologies to ensure that we are protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
As members of Parliament, our number one responsibility is to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Tonight, as I have listened to the different life stories of people who have been affected by perpetrators, I have come to believe that we have an obligation to act. We have a responsibility to do what we can to protect those most vulnerable in our society.
We must stand with the victims' families, those families that bear the pain of suicide, who have lost family members. We must stand with those families that have been victims of a perpetrator who came into their loved one's life and encouraged their loved one to commit suicide. We have to stand with those people who might be victimized by a perpetrator in the future.
This motion is the first step in moving forward on this issue. We must continue to work toward the preservation of life. We must continue to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society.