Bill C-327 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts)
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.
Bernard Bigras Bloc
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
- April 25, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Bill C-377—Income Tax Act—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
December 6th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.
The Speaker Andrew Scheer
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 22, 2012 by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie regarding the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), standing in the name of the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.
I would like to thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for having raised the matter; as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; the hon. House leader of the official opposition; and the members for Saint-Lambert, Cape Breton—Canso and South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale for their interventions.
In raising this matter, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie explained that the provisions of clause 1 of the bill would result in expenditures of public funds in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized. Specifically, he claimed that a new entity within the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) would have to be created to administer and enforce the provisions contained in the bill, and that there would be costs incurred in setting up a new computer system to meet the requirements of the legislation. These, he concluded, would constitute “new and distinct” costs, thereby creating a need for a royal recommendation.
Similarly, the member for Cape Breton—Canso argued that the bill envisioned a new function and purpose within the CRA and as such the terms and conditions of the royal recommendation that authorizes the agency's current spending would be altered. He also suggested that Bill C-377 would regulate the internal affairs of unions and the relationships with their members, thus giving the CRA a new labour relations function.
For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons rejected these arguments, claiming instead that the authority to spend for the purposes set out in the bill would fall under the general authority of existing broader provisions of the Income Tax Act, as well as the agency's general authorities under the Canada Revenue Agency Act. He illustrated this by referring to those portions of the Income Tax Act dealing with reporting requirements for charity organizations. He also stated that, should additional funds be required, the government would seek them from Parliament through an appropriation bill covering operating expenses.
The question before us is whether the implementation of Bill C-377 would constitute a new appropriation requiring a royal recommendation, or whether the costs would be administrative in nature and would fall under the ongoing mandate of the Canada Revenue Agency.
I would like to remind the House of the conditions under which a royal recommendation is required. As the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie noted in his presentation, bills which authorize new charges for purposes not anticipated in the estimates require royal recommendations. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 833 further states:
The charge imposed by the legislation must be “new and distinct”; in other words, not covered elsewhere by some more general authorization.
The Canada Revenue Agency already has the mandate to administer various tax and benefits regimes and to manage a broad range of other programs and activities. More specifically, section 5 of the Canada Revenue Agency Act mandates the agency to support the administration and enforcement of program legislation. Furthermore, in reviewing the documentation provided by the member for Saint-Lambert, which makes reference to specific cost information provided by the CRA in response to questions from the Standing Committee on Finance, the Chair notes the references made to section 220 of the Income Tax Act, which states:
(1) The Minister shall administer and enforce this Act and the Commissioner of Revenue may exercise all the powers and perform the duties of the Minister under this Act.
(2) Such officers, clerks and employees as are necessary to administer and enforce this Act shall be appointed or employed in the manner authorized by law.
In carefully reviewing this matter, it seems to the Chair that the provisions of the bill, namely the requirements for the agency to administer new filing requirements for labour organizations and making information available to the public, may result in an increased workload or operating costs but do not require spending for a new function per se. In other words, the agency, as part of its ongoing mandate, already administers filing requirements and makes information available to the public. The requirements contained in Bill C-377 can thus be said to fall within the existing spending authorization of the agency.
In a ruling given by Speaker Milliken on February 23, 2007, which can be found at page 7261 of Debates, he stated, in relation to the then Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), that:
Bill C-327 may or may not result in a greater workload for the CRTC, but the activities being proposed are within its mandate. If additional staff or resources are required to perform these activities then they would be brought forward in a separate appropriation bill for Parliament’s consideration.
It appears to the Chair that a similar situation would arise should Bill C-377 be enacted and, thus, that this particular ruling is directly relevant and applicable to the current circumstance.
A second ruling by Speaker Milliken, this one on December 3, 2010, Debates page 6803, in reference to then Bill C-568, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (mandatory long-form census), is also helpful. In that ruling it was apparent to the Speaker that the proposed legislation was not adding to or expanding upon the existing mandate of Statistics Canada and, thus, that the bill in question did not require a royal recommendation.
Accordingly, the Chair rules that Bill C-377 in its current form does not require a royal recommendation to proceed through the next stages of the legislative process.
I thank hon. members for their attention.
Bill C-377—Income Tax Act
Points of Order
November 28th, 2012 / 4:40 p.m.
Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the member's attempt at brevity but I must say that it reminded of that old classic movie, Airplane from 1980, penned by Jim Abrahams and David Zucker.
What I kept thinking of when I was listening to his brief presentation was those continuous scenes where Ted Striker, the ex-army pilot who was afraid to fly would continue to tell stories to the people in the seat next to him and they would end up attempting suicide. However, I do want to thank my friend for being at least a little more brief than the official opposition House leader. I will attempt to be even briefer than my friend from the Liberal Party.
I rise to respond to last Thursday's intervention by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and yesterday's intervention by the hon. member for Saint-Lambert concerning a royal recommendation for Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations).
Bill C-377 was introduced on December 5, 2011, by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale and has since been read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance. The bill would amend the Income Tax Act to require labour organizations to provide financial information for public disclosure.
I would note that this bill was not identified by the Speaker as an item of concern with respect to the financial prerogative of the Crown, nor has it been the subject of an intervention by a minister of the Crown or a parliamentary secretary on behalf of one.
The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie argued that the provisions of the bill requiring labour organizations to submit financial information and the requirement for the Canada Revenue Agency to publish the information on a website with search tools somehow represent new and distinct charges on the treasury which are not currently authorized.
The hon. member for Saint-Lambert then added the information provided to the finance committee by the Canada Revenue Agency which provided estimates on the expected incremental costs associated with implementation.
There are procedural authorities and precedents for cases where a new royal recommendation was not required for incremental modifications to expand the operation of provisions already authorized by a royal recommendation. The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie cited page 833 of the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice. The most relevant portion pertaining to amending bills, such as Bill C-377, is that a royal recommendation is required for:
...bills which authorize new charges for purposes not anticipated in the estimates. The charge imposed by the legislation must be “new and distinct”; in other words, not covered elsewhere by some more general authorization.
Section 220 of the Income Tax Act provides the minister with the authority to administer and enforce the provisions of the act. Indeed, this authority was cited in the same materials provided to the finance committee which the member for Saint-Lambert cited yesterday.
In particular, subsection 220(2) provides broadly and generally that:
Such officers, clerks and employees as are necessary to administer and enforce this Act shall be appointed or employed in the manner authorized by law.
Clearly, the authority to retain any necessary staff has already been addressed by Parliament.
It may also be useful to add here that subsection 5(1) of the Canada Revenue Agency Act provides that:
The Agency is responsible for
(a) supporting the administration and enforcement of the program legislation....
Program legislation is, in turn, defined in section 2 of that act as:
....any other Act of Parliament....
(a) that the Governor in Council or Parliament authorizes the Minister, the Agency, the Commissioner or an employee of the Agency to administer or enforce, including the....the Income Tax Act....
Indeed, this broad mandate already enjoyed by the Canada Revenue Agency is addressed in response to the Liberal question 1(a) in the finance committee materials the hon. member for Saint-Lambert cited, which asked how Bill C-377 aligns with the Canada Revenue Agency's mandate.
The agency replied:
A measure introduced by Parliament that is incorporated into the Income Tax Act and falls under the responsibility of the Minister of National Revenue will be administered by the CRA. Parliament determines if a measure will be incorporated into the Income Tax Act.
In other words, the Canada Revenue Agency has already been given a broad, sweeping mandate to administer and enforce federal taxation laws. Meanwhile, other existing provisions of the Income Tax Act allow the minister to require certain persons or entities to file information for the purposes of taxation.
Specifically, for example, subsection 149(14) dealing with qualified donors provides a requirement for public foundations to
—file with the Minister both an information return and a public information return for the year in prescribed form and containing prescribed information.
In other words, the act already requires information to be submitted to the minister in a prescribed form and containing prescribed information. Therefore, this does not constitute a new function, mandate or duty for the minister or the agency.
The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie also argued that making the information public represented a new and distinct activity that was not currently authorized.
First, the agency has a comprehensive website which publishes lots of information and materials, so that would not be a new responsibility for the agency.
As for making information public, I would note that the Income Tax Act provides provisions now to that effect. Subsection 149(15) relates to information that may be communicated in respect of charitable organizations. It states:
—the information contained in a public information return...shall be communicated or otherwise made available to the public by the Minister in such manner as the Minister deems appropriate...the Minister may make available to the public in any manner that the Minister considers appropriate...
In other words, the act provides the minister with the authority to publish in any manner the minister considers appropriate the content of a public information return. That other information would fall within an existing mandate and duty does not, I submit, require a royal recommendation.
Turning to some precedents, on February 10, 1998, at page 3647 of the Debates, Bill S-3, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act, was found not to require a royal recommendation. In his ruling, Mr. Speaker Parent said, in a case where powers were expanded yet no royal recommendation was needed, that:
It seems fairly evident that the powers of the superintendent would be extended by Bill S-3. It may well be that additional expenditures would be incurred because of those enhanced powers of the superintendent. Should an increase in resources be necessary as a result of these new powers, the necessary allocation of money would have to be sought by means of an appropriation bill because I was unable to find any provision for money in Bill S-3.
The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie made mention of the additional tasks which would fall to the employees of the agency as well as training which might be required for the new filings. Your immediate predecessor's ruling, Mr. Speaker, at page 7261 of the Debates for February 23, 2007 on Bill C-327, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act answers this point, states:
Bill C-327 may or may not result in a greater workload for the CRTC, but the activities being proposed are within its mandate. If additional staff or resources are required to perform these activities then they would be brought forward in a separate appropriation bill for Parliament’s consideration.
More recent, on October 26, 2010, Mr. Speaker Milliken ruled concerning the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-300, an act respecting corporate accountability for the activities of mining, oil or gas in developing countries. The bill, among other things, required the Minister of Foreign Affairs to establish a process for the examination of complaints concerning possible contraventions of the guidelines. The Speaker ruled then:
—the Chair is of the view that the examination of such complaints is not a departure from or expansion of the current ministerial mandate under the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act...Bill C-300 may put forth more stringent requirements, but it does not expand the mandate per se.
It may be that a reorganization of resources or even additional funds would be required, however, it appears these would be operational in nature.
I submit that Bill C-377 is consistent with the precedents cited in that it does not authorize a new expenditure of public funds. Rather it deals with the operation of provisions already authorized by Parliament which were accompanied by a royal recommendation at the time these provisions were enacted.
The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie mentioned that there was nothing set out in the recently tabled supplementary estimates (B) for this fiscal year. The hon. member for Saint-Lambert also claimed that this was confirmed in the agency's answers to finance committee.
Let us be clear. The usual practice we can expect to see unfold would be that the agency would account for its operations under Bill C-377, should it become law, in its estimates after the bill becomes law. That is a common practice with respect to any proposed legislation that has not yet been enacted. The supplementary estimates argument advanced by those hon. members is really a red herring in this entire debate.
Should Bill C-377 become law, the authority to spend for the purposes set out in the bill will be under the general authority of existing broader provisions of the Income Tax Act as well as the agency's general authorities under the Canada Revenue Agency Act. Should additional funds be required, the government would seek them from Parliament as part of the supply cycle through an appropriations bill in the ordinary manner for operating expenses.
I respectively submit that Bill C-377 does not require a royal recommendation and is properly before the House.
Committees of the House
May 13th, 2008 / 7:20 p.m.
The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer
Resuming debate. There being no further members rising, pursuant to order made earlier today, the motion to concur in the seventh report of the Standing committee on Canadian Heritage, recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-327, is deemed adopted on division.
(Motion agreed to)
Committees of the House
May 13th, 2008 / 7:05 p.m.
Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to add my voice to the debate on the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The report essentially recommends that the House not proceed further with Bill C-327.
Bill C-327 proposes to introduce tougher regulations to regulate violence in television broadcasts. I will read the salient portion of the bill, which happens to be section 10.1(1). It states:
The Commission shall make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes, including those contained in programs intended for persons under the age of 12 years.
Although this was promoted as a bill that would protect children against TV violence, the actual wording within the legislation was much broader than that. It would give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the power to institute regulations that would essentially censor violent programs on television.
Members of committee devoted a great deal of time to hearing from witnesses on the issue of media violence. Almost without exception, they gave the same clear message, and that was while well intentioned, the bill was not the right vehicle to address violence on television. In fact, it just simply was not going to work.
I want to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for bringing the bill forward. I share his underlying motives in addressing this issue. We all want to see violence on television decrease, especially where it relates to children's programming.
When I first heard about the bill, my first response was that I could support it. Why would anyone not support a reduction in violence in children's programming on television, except perhaps those who profit from it? However, as I looked more closely at the legislation, I realized it was deeply flawed.
What would the bill do? As I mentioned, it would give the CRTC broad new regulatory authority to make regulations on violent programming on television.
What did the committee determine after it had listened to the witnesses? The witnesses gave evidence that even though studies showed there was a connection between TV violence and the acting out of violent acts in society, there was a similar body of evidence that seemed to contradict it. In other words, the jury is still out as to whether there is a connection between TV violence and violence in our society. I tend to agree with those who say there is a connection, but the evidence before committee was not clear. It was ambiguous.
Some witnesses also raised the issue of censorship. The proponent of the bill went to great lengths to try to show that this was not about censorship, but virtually every witness who appeared before us, when directly asked by myself and others on the committee, said that it was a form of censorship.
Some of the concerns they raised centred around where would we stop. Are we no longer allowed to see boxing on TV, or programs such as 24, or Prison Break or even ice hockey, because ice hockey sometimes has fights? Is that too violent? We get into that whole discussion.
We already have restrictions on violence in Canada. The Criminal Code outlines what types of violent acts shown in broadcast programs are unacceptable. Beyond that, the CRTC has not interfered in what is shown on TV because TV broadcasters themselves have adopted their own code and standards of broadcasting, which address violence on TV.
We see warnings on TV telling viewers that a violent program is coming up, or the program is going to include adult content. Those warnings are there as a result of the industry agreeing to comply with its own code. There are those who say that is only a voluntary set of standards. In fact, it is not voluntary, even though the word voluntary is used. The conditions of licence require broadcasters to comply with that code.
What is really remarkable is that we did something in committee that we do not do too often. We invited children to address us and to share their views on television violence. They came up with some interesting information. First, they talked about the changing face of media, such things as the Internet, podcasting and personal video recorders. These are technologies that allow children and adults to view broadcast material in many different ways. They also talked about the multichannel universe, the 500 channel universe, where someone in Vancouver could be watching television during family hour, say at 7 o'clock in the evening, and they could be watching a program that is being broadcast in eastern Canada during hours when adult programming would be shown.
They also talked about the V-chip and, remarkably, none of the children at the committee said that their parents had ever invested or installed a V-chip on their televisions. They also talked about how little parental supervision there really was over what they watched on TV or viewed on the Internet.
When we collectively took the information that came from the witnesses, there was a very clear consensus that further regulation and censorship of TV would not work. It was not that there are limitations that might be suitable. The problem is that with a changing technological environment, those limitations are almost useless, because children view their programming in many different ways that are not subject to restrictions.
We also heard that when parents closely supervise what their children watch on TV, those children give more thought about the programs they watch. I can speak from personal experience. I am the father of four daughters. As they were growing up, we were very involved in their lives. We would not allow them to play video games. It was just a choice we made. We invested in music lessons. The same applied to TV.
We made sure that whatever they watched on television or whatever videos they watched were appropriate to their age. We intervened in their lives and I believe their lives today reflect that. I encourage parents to take responsibility for their children because, ultimately, it is not the government, not the nanny state, that is responsible for children. It is not teachers and it is not the media literacy groups. It is parents themselves who have the best opportunity of intervening and protecting their children against violent programming that they should not be watching.
What are the solutions? I have already mentioned media literacy groups. These are groups in our society who actually teach children and parents about some of the strategies that they can employ to ensure the programming their children watch is wholesome.
Parental involvement I have also mentioned and ensuring we engage in the lives of our children. The V-chip is modern technology that we can use to ensure that violent programming is not brought into our homes where our children would be exposed to it.
We also have the role of the broadcasters. They already have a so-called voluntary code of conduct that addresses the whole issue of violence on television. From all accounts, that set of standards is working well.
The chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission also suggested a number of other things and the most important of those was the suggestion that our government introduce the right to impose administrative monetary penalties on those broadcasters who actually violate the standards that they have accepted as a condition of licence. We have accepted that as an excellent suggestion and we will be suggesting to the government that it move forward with introducing an intermediate set of administrative monetary penalties that will allow the commission to penalize those who actually do not follow the rules that are set for broadcasting violent programs on television.
That is why I support the committee's recommendation not to proceed with Bill C-327. It was not carefully thought out and it does amount to censorship. From the witness testimony, it was clear that it would not actually achieve the result that it was intended to achieve.
Committees of the House
May 13th, 2008 / 6:55 p.m.
Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in the debate on the motion to concur in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, which is a recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).
As we have heard, Bill C-327 was tabled by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie in response to a petition of over 1.5 million Canadians, a petition spearheaded and headed by Virginie Larivière, a 13-year-old girl who was concerned about the role of television violence in the rape and murder of her younger sister. She gathered those petitions and presented them to the Mulroney government back a number of years ago.
The petition expressed the concern of over a million Canadians about the effects of violence on television in our society. This is clearly a very strong opinion about the circumstances and that issue. Members of Parliament needed to take that expression of concern very seriously. That is exactly what the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie did when he proposed this private member's bill. He did absolutely the right thing in putting forward a serious attempt to address that issue raised by so many Canadians.
Unfortunately, there were problems identified with the bill as proposed. The most serious problem members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage faced, after listening to testimony from many organizations and individuals, was that many witnesses saw this bill as giving the CRTC the power to censor television programing in Canada. This was seen a inappropriate by most of the witnesses and the members of the committee. It was a power that the CRTC should not have in the opinion of most of us, and I agree.
I have heard the concerns expressed around censorship and the freedom of cultural expression. Many of those have been raised recently regarding the Canadian film and video tax credit in the provisions of Bill C-10, which include a very broad possibility of the Minister of Canadian Heritage using guidelines to deny film and video tax credit based on personal sensibilities about what is appropriate film or video production in Canada. We have seen a great outcry from the cultural and arts community about that aspect of the bill.
There were also concerns that disputed some of the evidence presented in support of Bill C-327, including the way the numbers were used to compare the number of acts of violence in the Laval study, which my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has cited. It was also clear that television violence was only one source of violence today that Canadians and children faced. The Internet and video games were also very major sources of very violent programming and violence to which children and adults were exposed.
Therefore, for those reasons, I support the concurrence motion that we should not proceed with Bill C-327 as it was originally presented and as it cleared the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
However, I want to point out that it became clear to me, as we worked on the bill in committee, there was the possibility for amending it to fully remove the censorship provisions and instead stress the further development of broadcast codes and media literacy education commitments. It was clear there were serious concerns in Canadian society related to violence on television and its effect on adults and children in our society.
It also became clear that media literacy education was an important approach to dealing with the concerns, an approach that deserved stronger support from government, the CRTC and broadcasters. Many organizations do that excellent work, and we heard from quite a number of them. We should ensure there is expanded access by adults, children, parents and educators to the work on media literacy and media awareness done by those organizations.
It also became clear that the development by broadcasters of codes of ethics, broadcast codes, programming standards, classification systems and related complaint mechanisms should be enshrined in the Broadcasting Act. I appreciate that private broadcasters have developed those codes, voluntarily originally. Now through the auspices of the CRTC it is more mandatory, but they belong in the Broadcasting Act.
We should also put into the act that such codes should be developed in consultation with government, the CRTC, cultural workers, media unions, media literacy and media awareness organizations, advocacy groups and interested individuals, among others, that such codes and classification systems should be formally reviewed every five years, comprehensively, independently and publicly, and that further analysis of the connections between the depiction of violence and violence in society should be part of the mandate of the CRTC and broadcasters, as should media literacy education and media awareness education for Canadians of all ages.
I proposed amendments that would do exactly those things, that would add all those aspects to Bill C-327 as originally proposed. I had an indication from the chair that my amendments would be seen as being in order.
I also had clear support for my amendments from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, one of the groups that most clearly stated its concern and its opposition to the original bill because of what it saw as censorship provisions in the bill. It supported my amendments because it was clear that I had removed effectively all the censorship provisions from the bill.
Sadly, the Conservatives and Liberals on the committee would not even consider these amendments and then decided to recommend that the bill be abandoned without any discussion or debate on the amendments, which I had worked on, proposed and brought to the committee.
That was a serious disappointment. When we have the opportunity to consider private members' legislation at committee, we should go the whole way on that consideration. When members bring forward amendments to legislation before a committee, the committee should hear those amendments and have discussion on them. Sadly, that was short-circuited by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in this regard.
I would not have been able to support Bill C-327 as it was originally proposed and now as it returns to the House. That is why I support the motion before us today that the bill be abandoned, that we not proceed with the bill.
However, there was something valuable in the proposal from the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. We could have rescued the bill and found in it, with some amendments such as the ones I proposed, something that would be worthwhile for Canadians and that would serve us well in the long run, something that merited more discussion. We should have debated it more thoroughly in committee at the end of our considerations.
However, given now that the only option before us is the original form of the bill, sadly I have to concur with the full committee that we should not proceed with the legislation, given the very serious problems.
Committees of the House
May 13th, 2008 / 6:50 p.m.
Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC
Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament and a father of two young children aged 12 and 15, I want to begin by commending and congratulating my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie on his efforts. This is a typical case of a commendable initiative that does not meet the required goals in practice. A number of reasons have been given, and I agree with them. In any event, the Liberal Party of Canada will accept this report for all the reasons that have already been given.
We are parliamentarians. The testimony we have heard indicates that everyone agrees with the principle as such. We therefore need to work together to set guidelines that will enable us to reduce violence and help our young people grow and develop in a healthy environment.
We are already debating Bill C-10 with regard to film production. There will be a debate on freedom of expression, control and so on. Looking strictly at Bill C-327, we can see that it is a commendable initiative whose goals were appropriate and certainly relevant. However, these goals would not be achieved in practice.
I also agree that we should have agencies such as the CRTC and self-regulation. Our committee is working very hard to give the CRTC the necessary tools and to give it more teeth, making a cause and effect link to ensure that when there are abuses or deficiencies on the part of the broadcasters, there can be, through the Broadcasting Act, cause and effect links and actions taken accordingly.
Unfortunately, this bill, in light of everything we have done, is becoming obsolete. That is why, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1 we recommended that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill. That does not mean that nothing was done, but that exhaustive work had already been done.
I will not get into a political debate on the Conservatives, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc. All of us are either good parents or extremely aware of the relevance and importance of reducing violence. I am one of those who believes that it is not our role to regulate. That would lead us to a society where there is room for the arbitrary and possible censorship. How far will this go? I agree that there needs to be some structure and that we need to give agencies such as the CRTC the necessary tools to move from talk to action.
The work was comprehensive in scope. The member did a fine job, and he will be disappointed today. It is sad when a private member's bill does not pass. However, I would like to congratulate him because he contributed to moving this issue forward. He can tell his constituents and little Virginie Larivière that he did his job well, and that we all worked on this. Quite often, when our work entails creating legislation, we can have laudable objectives and present excellent proposals but, in terms of implementation, the situation as a whole must also be taken into consideration. Perhaps this is not the best approach. We did not move backwards, however. We continue to move forward. All of the members from the various parties contributed based on their own values and experiences. They shared their points of view.
It is also important to take time to read the whereas clauses.
Thus, we can see that we are all aiming at the same goal. I think that putting in all those “whereas” clauses provides the proper environment so people can understand that we have been doing our homework and that we are aiming at the same goal. However, as for the application itself, which is the legislation, we felt that in our case the Liberal Party of Canada could not proceed further.
We believe, and it is unanimous, in supporting freedom of expression, including everything regarding the media, film and television. As a start, it is important to talk about that.
Also, we believe that it is important to note the number of witnesses that came before the committee. It is not that we are deciding this in a partisan way. We have been doing our homework. We took the time to listen to the witnesses, including the children who came to tell us in their own way, with their own words, through their own experience, and with their own expertise what the application of Bill C-327 means. I think that is important to mention. I am a parent myself. There is always a need to relate that goal to education, to media literacy and clearly to parental engagement.
It was interesting when we had a little turmoil in putting together the motion, but everyone had the opportunity to put forward their words and explain clearly what they meant. I think the motion itself reflects that we have been doing a great job among ourselves.
Therefore, I truly believe that because it is the wrong means to achieve the goal, and because we believe in the goal, the Liberal Party of Canada, through Standing Order 97.1, will recommend that the House of Commons not proceed further with Bill C-327.
For all of these reasons, and for the work done by all of the members, I must say that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage did a fine job. I did not feel a blind partisanship as I have felt in other committees. We work well in that way. Again, I congratulate my Bloc Québécois colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, and I would like to thank all of my colleagues. It is clear that we must accept this report as presented.
Committees of the House
May 13th, 2008 / 6:40 p.m.
Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage
Mr. Speaker, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage presented April 9, 2008 should be accepted. The report recommends that the House not proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).
Violence in society is an issue of profound concern to every Canadian and is of concern to this government in particular.
First, I do want to thank the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his efforts to bring this bill before Parliament, not just in this session, but also in previous sessions.
The issue of violence in society has been a priority for this government. We continue to address it through initiatives to tackle crime. The age of protection, the age of sexual consent, has been raised from 14 to 16. People accused of gun crimes must now show why they should be on the streets while awaiting trial. There are tough new mandatory minimum penalties for those who commit serious gun crimes.
The tabling of Bill C-327 gave us an opportunity to have a constructive dialogue and to consider our accomplishments in Canada in limiting violence on television and in other media, particularly as it concerns children. It also gave the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage the opportunity to hear from a diverse group of witnesses and gain a better understanding of the best approach to address the issue.
Bill C-327 would amend the Broadcasting Act to add as a policy objective “to contribute to solving the problem of violence in society by reducing violence in the programming offered to the public, including children”, and would mandate the CRTC to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes.
During the second reading debate, the government explained that the Broadcasting Act already contains the necessary policy objectives and regulatory powers for the CRTC to deal with the issue of violence in broadcasting. It already makes broadcasters responsible for the programs they air and requires their programming to be of high standard.
The Broadcasting Act sets out a number of objectives for the broadcasting system. Central among these objectives is that the system should serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada.
The Broadcasting Act also provides that all persons who are licensed to broadcast programs on television have a responsibility for what they air and that all programming originated by broadcasting undertakings should be of high standard.
Furthermore, the act states that the broadcasting system should encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity. In this regard the respect for the freedom of expression of creators and the provision of choice for Canadian audiences are key principles.
Our approach to the reduction of violence in television is one that balances freedom of expression and regulation where necessary, but not necessarily one of increased regulation.
We have systems and industry codes in place, including a code on violence that upholds societal norms of decency and integrity. The current approach gives Canadians the tools to make informed program choices for themselves and their families.
Canadians who have concerns over programming can make a complaint with the CRTC or the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an independent non-governmental organization which administers programming standards, including the code on violence. Both the CRTC and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council have a rigorous review process in place to investigate complaints.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank members of the committee who worked on this private member's bill, especially for taking time to hear from more than a dozen witnesses and for conducting such a thorough review of the bill.
Violence on television is a sensitive issue and one that concerns us all. The committee heard from key representatives from the CRTC, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, media literacy organizations, teacher organizations, as well as advocacy and civil liberty groups. The committee also heard from children ranging in age who talked openly and honestly about their television viewing habits and their use of the Internet.
The key question we ask ourselves is this: will Bill C-327 achieve the goal of reducing violence in society, particularly as it relates to children?
What we found is that although there was broad support for the goal of reducing violence in society, almost all of the witnesses felt that Bill C-327 was not the right means for achieving that goal. Almost all believed that the regulatory measures contemplated by the bill would not be effective.
We heard that the CRTC already has the powers to make regulations concerning broadcasting of violent scenes and it has done so by requiring as a condition of license that broadcasters adhere to codes regarding violence on television. These codes were developed by the industry in consultation with Canadians and are designed to protect viewers from content they may find to not be to their wishes.
We also heard that the number of complaints concerning violent programming is generally low. From many of the witnesses, we heard that they were concerned with the potential for violations of free expression by the delegation to the CRTC of the power to make regulations respecting broadcasting violent content. We were reminded that Bill C-327 is directed toward the public, not exclusively toward children.
Some witnesses also talked about the difficulty in identifying the root cause of violent behaviour. As evidenced in the preamble, the bill presupposes a relationship between violence on television and violence in society.
However, whether there is a clear causal link between the two remains very much in dispute. There are everyday realities that we as a society must face, one being that we live in a society that unfortunately experiences violence.
The committee heard from many witnesses about the need for education, media literacy and parental engagement. They explained that media education and the fostering of media literacy skills in young people are key elements in any effective strategy to teach children how to be critical and thoughtful about the media they consume.
In contrast, we heard directly from children that they watch virtually anything they want, whether it is on television or the Internet. They questioned the effectiveness of wanting to regulate what they watch on television. With modern technology such as satellite television, digital cable and the Internet, they are able to access content from across Canada and the United States and, for that matter, all over the world.
The proposed bill has a limited ability to deal with these other potential sources of violent content. Therefore, we need to focus on encouraging parents to become more involved in the media choices their children make. We learned that kids and adolescents whose parents supervise their TV viewing and Internet usage are more likely to be aware of the negative impact of media violence.
I must tell members that just today the CRTC appeared before the standing committee to discuss administrative money penalties in testimony today. In regard to these AMPs, as they are known, we are now at the beginning of a process in which the committee is going to undertake to assist in giving a report on the efficacy and advisability of AMPs. The minister is looking forward to that report from the committee.
We are all deeply committed to the safety of our children and want less violence in our society. I do thank the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for bringing this issue forward. However, witnesses convinced the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that Bill C-327 is the wrong means to achieve the goal and would not serve Canadians in the long term.
I would therefore at this time encourage all members to accept the report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage which recommends that the House of Commons not proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).
Committees of the House
May 13th, 2008 / 6:30 p.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today to debate the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
This report raised a number of debates in committee, but basically, it can be summarized by the following text:
Therefore, be it resolved that this Committee, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, recommends that the House of Commons do not proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts) and that the Chair present the report to the House.
Before I explain what led the committee to adopt the report, I would first like to explain what motivated me, as a parliamentarian, to introduce Bill C-327. Why did I introduce this bill? I would remind the House that, in November 1992, a 13-year-old girl by the name of Virginie Larivière presented a petition signed by 1.5 million Canadians to the Canadian government, calling for legislation to reduce violence on television.
At the time, the images spoke volumes. The young girl presented the Conservative government, headed by Brian Mulroney, with a proper petition signed by 1.5 million Canadians. What did the government do then? It decided to accept a voluntary code governing violence on television, to trust radio and television broadcasters. Television broadcasters who signed on to the code committed to not broadcasting programs with scenes of gratuitous violence, to not exposing children to inappropriate programs, and to informing viewers of the content of the programs they chose to watch.
The voluntary code adopted by television broadcasters was the subject of an in-depth study at the time by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. In June 1993, the committee determined that if the voluntary approach proposed to television broadcasters did not work—and it was failing to achieve the goal of reducing violence on television—Parliament should seriously consider legislation.
Now, 15 years later, 15 years after the voluntary code for television broadcasters was introduced, where are we?
The Université de Laval's media studies centre looked at this issue. The latest study available was released in 2004. The media studies centre no longer has the funding to do its work because the federal government decided to cut funding for researchers studying and analyzing programming. Nevertheless, the study found that over 10 years, violence had increased by 286%, 81% of depictions of violence on television were broadcast before 9 p.m., not after peak viewing hours for children, and 29% of movie violence was psychological in nature.
Over the past few years, violence on television has changed. We are seeing proportionally less physical violence and more psychological violence. Numerous studies have shown that the violence to which our children are regularly exposed in movies, and sometimes even in television dramas, influences their behaviour.
The report by Dr. Rudel-Tessier as a result of her coroner's inquest into the death of an 11-year-old boy on December 31, 2005, is still fresh in people's minds. In her report, the coroner described Simon's story.
—Simon [was] a lively, healthy boy with a bit of a sense of adventure. On December 30, 2005, at around 7:00 p.m., Simon and his father decided to watch the movie The Patriot on television.
As the report indicates:
The plans of Simon and his father to watch the movie together changed when an unexpected visitor arrived. The child started to watch the movie alone, and his father promised that he would come and join him. At around 8:10 p.m., the boy was found hanging from the ceiling with The Patriot still playing on the television. The movie was rated “13 and over with violence” in Canada.
According to the coroner [Dr. Rudel-Tessier], there was nothing to indicate that the boy had committed suicide. She said that he had almost certainly been trying to play out a scene from the film shown at 7:34 p.m. where the hero's oldest son is brought by soldiers to be hung from a tree. According to the coroner, Simon may also have been influenced by another scene, which was shown at 8:01 p.m.
Finally, she questioned whether the film should have been shown in the evening, at 7:00 p.m. This example proves that we must establish regulations to reduce violence on television. The voluntary code did not stop a major network from broadcasting Striking Distance, on August 7, 2007, at 8 p.m.; it is rated “18 years and over with violence and coarse language.” Another movie, Cradle 2 The Grave , was shown on September 12, 2007 at 8 p.m.; it is rated “14 years and over with scenes of violence and coarse language.” I believe it is time to take action.
I would remind members that, in June 1993, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Communications and Culture concluded that the self-regulation approach needed to be given a chance. I quote:
However, the committee did agree that if that approach did not work, legislation would need to be considered.
That is the spirit behind Bill C-327. The bill before you today would require the CRTC to adopt regulations to limit—and I emphasize, to limit—and not to prohibit violence on television; to monitor compliance by broadcast licence holders with their obligations concerning violence; to sanction those that violate the rules; and to hold hearings every five years to assess the results of this approach.
The attitude of the government and the Liberal Party of Canada, who refused to study the amendments proposed by the NDP that would improve the bill, is deplorable. In my opinion, in a democratic debate, when a bill is studied by a parliamentary committee, members on the committee must have the opportunity to present and consider amendments.
I would like to thank the NDP member who will speak today for deciding to work on this bill. I would like to say today that it is important and that we will vote—
May 13th, 2008 / 5 p.m.
Executive Director, Broadcasting, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
What we proposed in Bill C-327 is certainly lesser than what we have under the Telecommunications Act. The primary reason, as indicated earlier, is that in the Broadcasting Act there are criminal provisions that are set at certain levels. They're set higher for telecom. A case in point is that revenues are higher in telecom than in broadcasting, so we have to go one step back from that.
May 13th, 2008 / 4:55 p.m.
Executive Director, Broadcasting, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
We want to add AMPs to our other methods, not to replace them. I do not think that we will back down or be less insistent. It is an additional method.
I am going to make an analogy with what you have just said. We have a penalty for murder, but not for shoplifting. We do not have this sort of penalty, and that is what we are seeking. The last time we discussed bill C-327, we suggested a maximum penalty of $200,000 for a first infraction and $400,000 for a second one. These are pretty hefty amounts.