Thursday, October 8, 2009

Motion 388 receives its first hour of debate

Are Internet Suicide Predators protected by the language of the law?

Nadia Kajouji
Harold Albrecht MP introduced Motion 388 to encourage the government to clarify Section 241 of the Criminal Code in order to ensure that the law applies to Internet suicide predators.

In March 2008, Nadia Kajouji killed herself after being encouraged and counseled by William Melchert-Dinkel, a licensed practical nurse in Minnesota.

In response to a plea by Kajouji's mother, Albrecht introduced M388 to clarify the assisted suicide law and to address the crime of online suicide counseling, which has led to Nadia and other young people committing suicide after being urged by predators via the Internet.

In his speech at the House of Commons, Albrecht presented several key points.

Nadia's mother
His first point was concerning the role of Section 241 of the Criminal Code. He stated, "Our society has long recognized that vulnerable people require the protection of the law. That is the purpose behind Section 241 of the Criminal Code which makes it illegal to counsel someone to commit suicide."

He then spoke about the concerns related to depression and the vulnerable person. He stated, "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. 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."

Harold Albrecht
Albrecht then explained Nadia's story. "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 life. … 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 also admitted to Minnesota police that he coaxed at least five different people to commit suicide using the Internet."

Albrecht then quoted Nadia's mother who stated, "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 the opportune moment."

Albrecht quoted Nadia's mother further by stating, "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 defense against prosecution for very serious criminal offenses."

Albrecht concluded his speech by saying, "My concern is for vulnerable Canadians. The changes called for in M388 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."

Serge Menard
Serge Ménard (BQ) spoke next, stating that the Bloc supports M388. But he questioned the need for the motion, noting that Section 241 is written in a broad manner.

Albrecht responded by stating that Melchert-Dinkel has not been charged by Canadian authorities and that it is important to give a clear message as a deterrent to those who counsel suicide over the Internet.

Ménard then continued by stating that suicide is the second leading cause of death in Quebec. He then stated, "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."

Alex's Note: This comment is especially interesting considering the fact that the Bloc Québecois supports Bill C-384 that would essentially eliminate the protections in Section 241 of the Criminal Code.

Rod Bruinooge
Rod Bruinooge (CPC) spoke in favour of M388 and asked if the motion would act as a push-back to groups attempting to normalize suicide.

Albrecht responded that M388 is only concerned with suicide predators who are taking advantage of vulnerable people, especially youth.

Alan Tonks (Lib) spoke in favour of M388 and expressed his concerns related to the rate of suicide and attempted suicide among youth in Canada.

Joe Comartin
Joe Comartin (NDP) was next to speak in favour of M388. Comartin was clear in his support by stating, "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."

Chris Warkentin (CPC) spoke in favour of M388, but emphasized the importance of maintaining a broad interpretation of Section 241 of the Criminal Code.

Motion 388 is tentatively scheduled to receive its second hour of debate on November 5, 2009. To circulate a petition in support of Motion 388, contact Harold Albrechts office at:

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