Former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy urges senators to support mandatory sentences
Kennedy told the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee that he supported the mandatory minimum sentences proposed in Bill C-10, especially for offenders who have sexually exploited or abused children. He said he hoped that the new mandatory sentences could prod more victims to come forward and tell their stories, especially children who often have barriers to revealing their plights.
"That needs to change," Kennedy said.
Kennedy also predicted that his former coach Graham James, who sexually assaulted Kennedy when James was his junior hockey coach, would receive a conditional sentence despite being convicted of two new sexual assault charges, including against former NHL star Theoren Fleury.
James is to be sentenced Wednesday in Winnipeg.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney also spoke to the committee Tuesday to argue in defence of the bill.
Critics have told the Senate committee that the powers given to the immigration minister in the bill — powers to give instructions to field officers about what occupations could be blacklisted from being allowed into Canada — were an example of a "democratic deficit."
In a one-hour appearance before the committee, Kenney told senators reviewing Bill C-10 those experts were wrong.
"That is a completely spurious concern. It's elevating process over substance to an absurd degree," Kenney said.
"There's no democratic deficit."
Kenney defended parts of the bill that attempt to prevent the exploitation of immigrants.
Those portions of the bill would allow visa officers abroad to block someone's work permit if the officer suspects they might be heading into an occupation where they will be exploited for labour or sex.
The one occupation Kenney said he already knows would be targeted under the legislation, if passed: exotic dancers.
The number of immigrants issued work permits to come to Canada to become exotic dancers has dropped to eight last year from the 250 handed out in 2003.
Kenney said he wants that number at zero and the only way to do that was through the rules and regulations contained in the omnibus crime bill.
Liberal senators on the legal affairs committee were not convinced, pointing out that the government has already done a good job lowering the number of exotic dancer work permits with the legislation currently in place.
"The likelihood of it going back up in the current environment seems unlikely," said Senator James Cowan.