02/20/2013 04:49 EST | Updated 04/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Ottawa plans crackdown on sexual offences against children

The federal government will be introducing legislation later this year to further crack down on criminals who commit sexual offences against children, says the federal justice minister.

Rob Nicholson made the statement in Moncton on Wednesday during a roundtable discussion with community groups about how to make streets safer.

He said steps have been taken to reduce crime and overall, crime rates did decline in 2011.

But some offences are on the rise, including drug crimes and child sexual offences.

"Even more disturbing is that sexual exploitation is apparently becoming more and more violent they tell me, and the children who are being violated are younger than ever," he said.

The new legislation will "ensure that sentencing takes into account each young life that has been devastated by a sexual attack," said Nicholson.

The government will also be working to help victims of crime and to increase efficiency within the justice system, he said.

Ron Davis, whose 16-year-old daughter was shot to death in 1987 while working at a convenience store on St. George Street in Moncton, contends there's still a lot of work left to do to improve the system.

Davis works for victims' rights, including improving funding to help disadvantaged people attend parole hearings.

"If a person didn't have a credit card, they'd never be able to [travel to] attend a hearing — and those kind of issues to try and help some people that don't ever go to a parole hearing cause they can't afford to," he said.

Crime costs Canadians about $100 billion a year, the minister said.