House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was child.

Topics

Business Of The House
Private Members' Business

September 22nd, 2000 / 1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I have received notice from the hon. member for Lakeland that he is unable to move his motion during private members' business on Monday, September 25, 2000.

Since it was not possible to arrange an exchange of positions on the order of precedence, I will ask the clerk to drop this item to the bottom of the order of precedence.

The hour provided for consideration of private members' business will therefore be suspended and consideration of government orders will begin at 11 a.m.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-321, an act to amend the criminal code to provide for the forfeiture of property relating to child pornography crimes, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-321, an act to amend the criminal code to provide for the forfeiture of property relating to child pornography crimes, introduced by the member for Lethbridge.

Certainly this is a timely and important bill, and a bill that all members of parliament should be able to support.

The purpose of the bill is to allow a court that convicts a person of an offence under section 163.2 of the criminal code concerning child pornography, to order the forfeiture of anything used in committing the offence or related to the offence. This legislation is needed for the safety and the protection of every child in Canada. The legislation resulted from a court case in British Columbia in which the court ruled that an individual had the right to possess child pornography, something that the PC Party does not agree with.

The original decision in the Sharpe case was appealed to the British Columbia Supreme Court, which upheld its ruling of January 1999. Following the court decision, the PC Party justice critic, the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, called on the Minister of Justice to immediately refer the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada. Since the supreme court was ultimately going to hear the case, the PC Party wanted to expedite this process and ensure that children in Canada had the full protection afforded by the criminal code.

Again, in February 1999 the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough said to the Minister of Justice:

—most Canadians were shocked and outraged in the wake of a B.C. justice's ruling dismissing charges of possession of child pornography as unconstitutional.

There is an urgent need for clarification for law enforcement agents, the judiciary, and all Canadians. The protection of children afforded by section 163 of the Criminal Code should be paramount.

Will the Minister of Justice do more than simply intervene in the B.C. appeal and will she reference the Sharpe case to the Supreme Court of Canada immediately?

We all know the results of that. However, the matter is finally before the Supreme Court of Canada and we await the decision of the court. If the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada does not overturn the original decision allowing possession of child pornography, the PC Party would support the use of the notwithstanding clause. This would suspend the decision for five years and allow parliament to introduce legislation to make possession of child pornography an offence.

This is an obvious radical action, but without question, given the heinous nature of this crime, radical action is required. By the way, this position has enormous public support.

Our position is also supported by the Canadian Police Association. The 30,000 members of the police association have publicly outlined their support for this legislation and the importance of ensuring that anything used in the commission of an offence under the child pornography provisions could be ordered forfeited by the court. The Canadian Police Association noted that this provision would include seizure of computer equipment used in the offence. As the Internet is a source of child pornography, this legislation would enable the law to keep pace with technology and recognize the role that the Internet plays in such offences.

This is a case where the need to protect those most vulnerable in society must supersede the rights of the individual. The Parliament of Canada has the duty to use every avenue available to protect society and especially children from sexual predators. We support the bill introduced by the hon. member for Lethbridge.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Reform

Eric C. Lowther Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I know my time is short this afternoon but I think we have heard some excellent commentary on the bill on this side.

I was somewhat troubled, though, to hear the comments from the Liberal member opposite reflecting the government's position on the bill. Primarily, it seems the one concern that the government has about the bill is the fact that someone may use someone else's equipment in purveying or getting hold of this grievous material and therefore the person who owns the equipment would be held criminally responsible.

If that is the only reason the government is considering not moving ahead on this important initiative, it is a very weak one. In Canada today we have laws in place that allow for the forfeiture of equipment and all that went into propagating hate propaganda. If we can do it for hate propaganda, why can we not do it for child pornography?

We have examples in other parts of the world. The United States has very significant forfeiture legislation which has been used to forfeit property, houses and things with relation to this kind of crime. Therefore it can be done and it has been done in other types of legislation.

To say we cannot move ahead on this because we have some confusion about who might be held responsible because of who owns the equipment is a complete sham, I would suggest, and a real disappointment.

There are many issues that come to the House that we have different positions or, but I do not think we have on the issue of child pornography. We owe it to the Canadian people, those who are watching and those who are concerned about this issue, to show some unity on this, move quickly and make Canada a place in the world where there is a zero tolerance policy for child pornography. This is one incremental step to move us that much closer to it.

It is disappointing to hear the government say that it wants to put up some little roadblock to stall this when it could move ahead, particularly when we had the minister say that she wanted to move ahead with legislation to tighten up the whole cyber-stalker situation whereby people are luring children into this on the Internet. It is an excellent initiative. What an excellent time to integrate this improvement, plug the loop-hole that was missed and solve both problems at the same time. I encourage cabinet and members opposite to rethink their position and integrate this as quickly as possible.

I had that experience myself when I brought forward a private member's bill to the House. It allowed children's organizations to have access to the pardoned records of convicted pedophiles. We had unanimous agreement on this side of the House. The cabinet voted against it, but the majority of backbench Liberals voted with the bill. Eventually it went to committee and we had everybody onside. Then the government brought forward a bill much like mine, we made improvements to it, it went through the Senate and has now become law.

In the House there is agreement on this issue that in Canada we should have a zero tolerance policy. This bill is timely and is the kind of thing we can all agree on.

I remember that in the committee meeting, and I believe the hon. member opposite also remembers, we all decided to integrate my bill into the government bill, make improvements and send it back to the House with a recommendation that it go forward and become law. It was one of the few times that everyone around that table gave a round of applause and a cheer went up because we knew that we had done the right thing.

I suggest to you, Madam Speaker, to the House and to all who are listening that we quickly move on this bill. Let us do the right thing. Let us get it done and move ahead for all those people who have been concerned about the Sharpe case, which is still pending after almost two years, and who have been waiting to hear that possession of child pornography remains illegal in this country. It has been a shame for so long. Then all those people, almost 500,000 of them who signed those petitions that I delivered to the House, will start to see the House move on this issue and move quickly.

Hopefully the Sharpe decision will come down in the next few days. We have had enough doors being opened for child pornography in Canada. There is agreement in the House. There is clearly agreement across the land that we do not want it in Canada. Let us work together to make sure that we see that agreement acted upon and the doors closed as quickly as possible.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I look around the House today and I do not think there is a single member of parliament in this place who would say that they were in favour of kiddie porn, or in favour of pederasts or any of that type of stuff that would be condoned by these types of activities. For the folks back home, I do not think there is anybody here who would support kiddie porn. If there is, I want that member of parliament to raise his or her hand. No, I did not think so. The question then comes down to what is the best way to deal with the problem.

First, I commend my colleague from Lethbridge for having brought this forward. He mentioned in his speech, and others touched on it, that one of the ways to potentially deal with this issue is to try to regulate the Internet. That is an incredibly unwieldy proposition and is next to impossible. Our ability to try to restrict some website in the United States and somebody in Canada from having access to it is very difficult. Even trying trying to restrict it within the country would be difficult as well. We all know how quickly these things are growing and how much the Internet is taking off by leaps and bounds. That is just one aspect of this. I think that would be very difficult to do.

Another aspect, though, is the whole idea of the forfeiture of property, of seizing the tools of the trade of these people who engage in child pornography. If they are engaging in child pornography and are using computers for those purposes, surely it makes absolute sense to seize the tools of the trade. It would make it all that much more difficult for them to do so. If we take away the computers it probably would go a long way toward stopping their dalliances on the Internet and their spreading of the material. If we take their digital cameras or whatever they happen to use, if we seize their ability to capture visible images, it would go a long way toward ending the dissemination of material.

People who go to great trouble and cause problems by somehow obtaining visual images of the sexual exploitation of minors could be processed under law and convicted for having done what they did. Let us imagine the oddity of their keeping the material and possibly selling it to others or somehow making a profit from what they have done by distributing it to other individuals who share their predilections. That would be not right. I do not think any MP in the House thinks that would be right.

The only point the government brought forward in this consideration is if somebody worked for a company and used a computer there to download or somehow distribute such images. It is a pretty weak case. I put the issue to the people at home who are watching today. It is not a fair analogy or something that would serve as a real roadblock for the legislation to carry forward. It is something that the government's representatives on the streets of the country, the police, say is the right way to deal with the issue.

Surely the parliamentary secretary must be willing sometimes to step aside from his academic or theoretical and abstract considerations with regard to some of these issues and listen to his own deputies, his own people on the street, the ones who deal with pornographers on a day in, day out basis, make it their lives and spend decades trying to hunt down some of these criminals. Surely listening to them makes sense.

If the parliamentary secretary cannot listen to police officers who deal with the criminal investigation of pedophiles or child pornographers, to whom can he listen? Would he take the word of somebody in the Department of Justice, some lawyer worried about some particular nuance, the crossing of a t and dotting of an i with regard to a clause, or of somebody who deals with child pornographers and pedophiles on a regular basis and sees the sick work they do?

Police officers enforce this aspect of the law. They probably have a far better understanding of its reaches and consequences than the parliamentary secretary could ever dream of, and certainly more than whoever it is in the Department of Justice with whom he consults on these matters. I ask him to pay close attention to what police officers have to say in this regard and to give due consideration to the bill.

I would like to wrap up by saying that my colleague, the member for Lethbridge, has done commendable work. It is noble of him to have listened closely to police officers who work in this very area and to have come up with legislation. Once again I applaud the idea that rather than trying to regulate the Internet, which is an incredibly difficult and possibly impossible task, we focus on the tools of the trade of pornographers and pedophiles and go after them instead. He may be able to provide more resources to police officers, those people on the beat that the parliamentary secretary does not seem to want to listen to in this case, so that they can go ahead and do the good work they do.

I ask that the parliamentary secretary and the government do the right thing in this regard.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Accordingly the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.15 p.m.)