The Conservative government will bring in stronger penalties for people who commit sexual offences against children, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said today in Toronto.

It's not clear when the legislation will be introduced. Harper said last week that he plans to ask Gov. Gen. David Johnston to prorogue Parliament and then return for a throne speech in October. Legislation can't be introduced until Parliament returns.

Former justice minister Rob Nicholson said in February the government would bring legislation later in the year to strengthen penalties for child sexual offences, including addressing "the risks posed by known sex offenders."

Harper said the focus must be on the rights of victims, especially on those of children, "the most vulnerable of all victims."

The government, he said, has filled in gaps in the justice system and made it more responsive to victims.

Over the years, he said, it had gotten "progressively skewed in favour of the offender." People who had done "dreadful things" didn't complete their sentences or served their sentences at home." 

"The victims, on the other hand, have to cope for the rest of their lives with what such people have done to them."

Justice Minister Peter MacKay was with Harper to make the announcement, pledging to offer help to victims and their families.

The new measures being proposed would:

  • Require those convicted of child pornography and related offences to serve their sentences consecutively. A press release from Harper's office notes that would "apply particularly to offenders who have victimized multiple children."
  • Increase maximum and minimum penalties for child sexual offences.
  • Increase penalties for violation of conditions of supervision orders.
  • Ensure that if a crime was committed while on parole or statutory release, it would be a mandatory factor to be considered in sentencing.
  • Ensure that the spouse of a person charged with child pornography offences could be obliged to testify in court.

"I cannot even begin to comprehend why those who sexually prey on children do the heinous things they do," Harper said, noting there are "truly evil people out there."

"We don't understand them and we don't particularly care to. We understand only that they must be dealt with. We must deal with them to protect our children."