By Nicole Liebermann
Bill C-299, sponsored by Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks, received Royal Assent on June 26. The bill will amend the Criminal Code and impose a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for a stranger that kidnaps a child under the age of 16.
“I am very proud that Bill C-299 has received Royal Assent. The protection of children across Canada is paramount,” stated Wilks. “This addition to the Criminal Code will ensure that those convicted of kidnapping of a child under the age of 16 receive adequate sentencing.”
Wilks introduced the bill following the kidnapping of three-year-old Kienan Hebert from his Sparwood home in the September of 2011. Hebert was returned home safely and without injury just a few days later, while his kidnapper, Randall Hopley, was arrested and pleaded guilty to the abduction.
“There was a gap in the criminal code with regards to kidnapping,” Wilks explained. “Specifically to the Hopley case where this came to fruition, was that under Section 279 of the Criminal Code there was nothing recognizing the kidnapping of a child by a stranger.”
He went on to say, “[The bill] was specifically put forward not in whole part for the Hopley case, but certainly that had an influence on it, because very rarely do you have a stranger kidnapping where the child is found alive.”
The Government of Canada’s support for the proposed legislation is in keeping with the Plan for Safe Streets and Communities, one of four priorities identified by the Prime Minister. This plan focuses on holding violent criminals accountable, enhancing the rights of victims, and increasing the efficiency of the justice system.
Wilks commented, “In going to Ottawa, my expertise, or my leaning, was towards areas of justice and I wanted to ensure that I could do something for all Canadians that would be a benefit, so I’m quite happy about it.”