House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pornography.

Topics

Health
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister who in the past has expressed concern about fetal alcohol syndrome. I am sure he would like to have as his legacy an initiative which was passed by Parliament almost unanimously two and a half years ago. Before he ends his time as Prime Minister, could the Prime Minister ensure that the motion passed by Parliament requiring labels on all alcoholic beverage containers warning that drinking when one is pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome becomes a reality?

Health
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member has done before, she has raised a very important issue, one which is of great concern to everyone in the House and all Canadians.

I want to be sure that everyone in the House understands that the motion that was adopted in 2001 was that the government should consider the advisability of requiring that no person shall sell an alcoholic beverage unless the container in which the beverage is sold carries a warning label. I want to assure the hon. member that we are doing just that. We are seriously looking at the advisability of requiring warning labels.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

October 28th, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that my friend the House leader looks forlorn and left out, I want to return to the only minister who refused to answer the question today, the Minister of Natural Resources.

Seeing that he has not filed with the ethics commissioner since May 1998, would he tell the House whether he has received any undeclared gifts over $200?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby
B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member would take the time to do his research, he would find that any gift received over $200 is listed with the conflict of interest counsellor. I have abided fully with all the requirements.

If the hon. member has any evidence that I have not, he should go to the conflict of interest counsellor or he should table it in the House here today. If he has evidence of any time that I have not complied with the counsellor, he should stand up right now, instead of doing this nonsense in the House.

Business Development Bank
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has agreed to my request to include the extravagant expenditures of the BDC in her audit and to encourage the BDC to make this report public.

Will the Minister of Industry support the Auditor General's proposal in order to ensure the necessary transparency in this matter?

Business Development Bank
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as far as I know, the Auditor General can do whatever she sees fit within her jurisdiction, such as tabling her reports in Parliament. The decision is up to her.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There should be a period for questions on the last speech.

Supply
Government Orders

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The member is not here, so we cannot have them. It is one of those heartbreaks, but there is not much we can do.

We are resuming debate with the hon. member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge.

Supply
Government Orders

3 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Wild Rose ought to know that the member for Mississauga South had to conduct an interview this afternoon on yet another controversial issue, that being the issue of stem cells.

We are dealing with a number of very tough and substantive issues, issues which no doubt will be current not only today but certainly down the road.

I want to thank the opposition for bringing this motion forward. It is not very often we find that members on both sides of the House can agree to an initiative. The wording of the motion itself is not only commendable but indeed quite supportable.

While I say this, there have been some steps that have been taken by the government. Some would treat them as baby steps but nevertheless they are important steps on the issue of child pornography, which probably is the most serious issue confronting this nation today. We have been able to move ahead with Bill C-20 and Bill C-23 and pass Bill C-15, which among other things moved a step closer to ensuring that Internet service providers would have to retain data. Those are some of the measures that have been taken.

For the sake of the debate, I would like to point out that this is not a new issue. I applaud the member for bringing this motion forward and speaking to it very proudly. Not too long ago it was that member who led a committee of several members of Parliament to attend what was supposed to be a one hour session on the epidemic of child pornography and the scourge that exists not only around the world but also here in Canada.

The shocking pictures referred to a little earlier were the same pictures that I had seen when I had the opportunity of working with Detective Sergeant Paul Gillespie and Detective Sergeant Bob Matthews of the OPP. I know they are in very good hands with the work now of Detective Sergeant Bruce Smollett and Detective Sergeant Paul Gillespie.

A number of initiatives must come of this motion. It is clear that there is sufficient support for the motion. I would be very surprised that there would be any attempt to water down what is otherwise a motion that must serve as a constant reminder of the most serious problem that confronts our nation.

The hon. member for Wild Rose will remember that we put together an issues and options paper. In the few minutes that have been given to me, I want to go through several of the items that I think would be cause for where we go after the motion is passed. Hopefully there will be time left in our parliamentary agenda and calendar to fulfill those.

We said that the age of consent should be raised from 14 to 16, while maintaining the close in age exemption. This would amend section 150 to substitute 16 for 14. We would also retain the age of 18 as a consent for trust relationships.

We dealt with the issue of artistic merit. Section 163.1(6) as currently expressed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sharpe decision exempts child pornography clearly harmful to children as the subject of criminal prosecution.

Our solution at the time, and I believe we had support from all parties, was to eliminate the defence of artistic merit and that the definition of child pornography be included as part of the hate crimes section 319.

In my view, that would be the way in which we try to address this very serious issue.

I think where the government has certainly come a long way is to deal with section 163, to apply a community standards test similar to the Butler case. I will not get into the specifics of that.

Another issue, which would not be news to some colleagues, was the requirement that written child pornography be found to advocate or counsel illegal sexual activity with children permits the exclusion of child pornography that is harmful to children from being the subject of criminal prosecution.

It was felt that if we added “a prominent characteristic of which is the description of sexual activity between a person under the age of 18 and an adult, the primary purpose of which is for sexual gratification of an adult or which poses a risk of harm to a child”, that would serve the test.

We know that in the same decision on Sharpe, the Supreme Court of Canada permitted a number of exemptions. I believe that some of them are downright wrong and must be reviewed by Parliament.

The “private recordings of unlawful sexual activity privately held for personal use” invented by the Supreme Court of Canada permits subsequent exploitation of persons recorded who no longer consent to the use and, given the disparity of age permissible, permits ongoing exploitation of children under 18, or 16, by adults.

Our view on this is to restrict such exceptions to recordings between persons under 18, not engaged in explicit sexual activity involving disclosure, clearly indicating both knowledge and consent that the activity is being recorded, not kept in a manner where it is capable of distribution to others, and the possession is for the exclusive personal of the person in possession of it.

Another issue is one that we also tackled that evening--many of these things were by consent--the expressive material exemption, again an exemption to what is otherwise unlawfully expressed child pornography and invented again by the Supreme Court of Canada, is capable of being used to permit material harmful to children to be created and possessed, including animated, computer generated, morphed images, mixed and edited videos, and audio recordings mixed with the above. We felt that it was important to eliminate the personally possessed expressive material defence whenever that should pose a harm to children. I note that the government has done this in some of its legislation.

Perhaps the most controversial but nevertheless most important issue from a police resource perspective is the Stinchcombe decision. The Supreme Court of Canada some time ago imposed rules of disclosure that necessitate police providing copies of every image seized from an offender, frequently in the tens of thousands and more as a result of the Internet and the nature of sexual deviance, thus needlessly depleting resources, delaying prosecutions and potentially disseminating material harmful to children. It is our view that a simple way to achieve this would be similar to how it is done with drugs, and that is simply to get a sample and admit that as evidence, and that could be written in as opposed to going through every single issue.

Another issue is the whole area of lawful access, and I know that the only people who will buzz to that are obviously people in the police community and those in the justice department, who I hope will be listening to this. It is clear that Canada is losing the battle with evolving technologies. We simply do not have the ability when people are using various forms of encryption, new technologies and disposable telephones, you name it. The government needs to proceed with binding and effective legislation that allows police modern and up to date information.

Also, and I should point out that this is a critical point, if we want to beat the child pornographers and stop the 40% of people who see this material and go on to offend against and exploit children, as is currently the convention in this country, then the way in which we do that, I would submit very honestly, is to ensure that if an Internet service provider or, for this case, a company that is involved in the use of telephone lines, should provide the information to lawful and local authorities, it should be based on warrant. They should not be charged the going rates. This is not about making money. This is about protecting children. It is time that the telephone companies and those involved in communications get on board. We do need that.

I know that only a few minutes on this very important question will be provided to me. I do want to issue the challenge again to all colleagues to hear the voices of those who believe that we do need to amend the definition of primary designated offence and provide for the taking of DNA samples. This should, in my view, of course be retroactive. That may be impossible to do, but we must start that as soon as possible.

Sentences imposed for crimes involving child pornography are disproportionately low for the harm they cause and the risks posed to children. In my view, and indeed I think in the view of the majority in the House, we should create a mandatory minimum penalty for second or subsequent offences under section 163.1. That would of course allow as well the opportunity to create a mandatory consecutive penalty akin to section 82.1 for firearms, for conviction of an offence under section 163 or committed in conjunction with another sexual crime, or committed while on parole for sexual crime against a child under the same section.

I believe that some of these bills and some of the ideas that we have talked about for some time would go a long way. I cannot think of a better opportunity we would have for all of us at some stage to understand that if we are to take seriously the protection and the safeguarding of this country's most precious constituency, the laws that we have in this country are of no force or effect or in fact of no meaning if we cannot protect those who eventually will assume the very burden of making this a greater nation.

Young people in the tens of thousands from around the world are only faces. We cannot put names to those faces. We understand the concerns that have been raised by those who say we need to have a balance, but the balance must not come at the expense of rewriting our charter. We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but I ask the House, whose rights are we to protect and whose freedoms are we to safeguard? It is very clear to all in the House and to any ordinary individual that the benefit of the doubt must always inure to those who are the most vulnerable and least in a position to defend themselves.

The exploitation we are talking about is all the more important given the advancements in technology, the ability within a nanosecond to transmit a face around the world. The Internet, Interpol and a number of agencies have been involved with trying to make sure that a document about a certain activity and a behaviour that is occurring in Canada is not simply sent to the country or sent to a few agencies around our great nation, but that in fact those police forces and those agencies involved would have the resources to be able to understand, to disseminate and to make sure that we protect children.

That is the bottom line. I thank the House for the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate what the hon. member has said. He brings up a very important topic, that is, the charter, the use of the charter and how the charter is being used.

For two decades Canadians have had the charter. It seems to me that at the present time there are certain freedoms within the charter that are far more important than other freedoms. Was the charter written for the courts and lawyers or was it written for ordinary people such as hon. members and myself?

I want to give two quick examples and ask for a comment. It seems to me the freedom of the charter most used by the judiciary is that of freedom of expression. For example, we have a legal church service in progress that is disrupted because few individuals know what doctrine they preach. That was only freedom of expression, it is a legal assembly, and yet no charges are laid because the freedom of expression is weighted more heavily than the freedom of assembly. I would appreciate a comment on that.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain. I know he is very passionate about this. I think all of us are travelling into deep waters some 20 years after the charter came into effect. I believe the hon. member is suggesting that there is of course a priority or, according to some courts, staggered priorities as far as the charter is concerned.

I do not believe it is the responsibility of this Parliament to delve into what decisions are made unless they impact the rights and freedoms of individuals. I believe that to be the essence of what the hon. member is asking.

Before we do that, I think Parliament must come to the idea that we need to know who is on the benches of this country. Quite frankly, if we are to have a constitutional democracy, we understand democracy and we know who is going to be elected, but we must have a better idea of who is going to be making these decisions. With no disrespect, if people are going to wear black robes and make decisions and delve into public policy, as is their right, they believe, according to interpretation after interpretation, then I believe it is also incumbent upon us to understand it and to have a process of review prior to them being on the bench.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I appreciate this member and his efforts on this particular issue over the years. I also agree with what he said needs to happen. There is no doubt about that.

Here is my concern. I think the member understands why most of us are concerned about it. He put on the meeting, which he has talked about. I attended and that is when I first had a chance to see the graphics of these pictures and what the videos were all about. Although I have been on this issue for a long time as well, that is the first time I actually got see any of that. That inspired me even more to believe that this has to be dealt with and has to be dealt with quickly.

The meeting was perhaps two years or several months ago. The people who left that meeting, including members on this side of the House and on the other side, agreed that legislation has to come forward immediately to address this very serious problem, because it will get worse if not.

That is why the motion was put forward today. I became very impatient. I kept waiting, and I am sorry, but Bill C-20 does not have what is required to protect our children. The bill is short on that. It is flawed. The bill needs to be fixed.

I am quite certain that most of the members on his side of the House will probably support the bill. It would be rather silly not to. I have a question for the member, then: if they support the bill, can I expect that they would move forward immediately with amendments to Bill C-20, which is before the committee, to address this very serious problem? Or are we going to have to wait another two years or several months before something actually happens? Time is of the essence when it comes to the safety of our kids.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment and thank the hon. member. I know how sincere and devoted he is to this issue, as are so many of us in the House and as are so many Canadians.

I think we have to try to find a way to break down those impediments and barriers that prevent us from allowing even one child to be exploited unduly.

I believe that the hon. member may very well want to take a look at the issues and options paper that we, all members of the House, crafted together. We tried to get an agreement some years ago on the age of consent but it was not successful. I have tried as a member of Parliament to bring these issues and options to the attention of my colleagues and many have listened.

Unfortunately, from time to time there are other priorities, I point out to the hon. member. I am interested in what is happening with the Irving question and I am interested in all these scandals that we want to bring up, but frankly, if this Parliament is to have any relevance and any meaning it must be for the young people in the country, who know that there is a possibility of being exploited by people who individually and obviously have need for some therapy, not some form of judicial interpretation that might ultimately wind up putting young children at greater risk.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this supply day motion put before the House by the hon. member for Wild Rose. I know he has been trying for quite some time to get this issue on the floor.

I would like to perhaps make this a little more personal. As a mother and a grandmother, it causes me great concern with the way our society is going as far as protecting its children.

When I was a young woman living in Slave Lake, Alberta, the community was putting together a day care to provide a safe place for young children to spend their day. We had a visit from a police officer from Edmonton who spoke to us in general terms about the abuse of young children. I can remember being unable to comprehend what she was telling us. She told us that young children, even those a few months old, had been sexually assaulted by adults. I found it hard to accept that an adult could do that sort of thing to a baby. She assured me that this was in fact a case file, that it was not a made up story and that cases like that did happen.

Over the last 10 years I have been subjected to people coming to my office who are concerned that the laws of the land do not protect younger children, even those 14 years of age. There was such a case in my own constituency. A 27 year old had taken a 14 year old girl out of her home with her consent and they were living together. The parents of that 14 year old child could do nothing about it.

I am not alone in caring about this issue. I will be sharing my time with the member for Crowfoot who also is concerned as are, I would hope, most members in the House.

A number of issues need to be addressed when we talk about the protection of our children. One of those issues is the fact that we as adults have to take responsibility for protecting children. We have to ensure that society takes that responsibility seriously. Not only do we have to ensure that the police and legal people who take these cases to court take this seriously, but we have to ensure that judges and those people who determine sentences take these situations seriously as well.

There has been a lot of debate as to the legal parameters of when child pornography is pornography and when it is artistic merit. We know that children are being hurt either directly or indirectly when we see a picture or anything depicting children in an inappropriate sexual situation.

As a parent and as a grandparent, I am more concerned about the psychological damage done to young people who find themselves being abused and being made the victim of filming or whatever to satisfy an adult's needs. The statistics show the damage done to those young people. Survivors struggle with depression, low self-esteem, self-blame, dissatisfaction with life, anxiety, disassociations, splitting between the mind and the body and difficulties in relationships. The list goes on and on of how young children end up responding to situations that they have no control over goes.

Being used as an instrument in the creation of pornography is something that a young person knows is not acceptable, yet often that material is used to coerce them into keeping quiet and continuing with the process.

Others before me have mentioned how, through the Internet, invasive child pornography has become. There was a case in the Toronto area where a 32 year old man was arrested for taking pictures of young women at different places in society, bus stops, stores, and even in bathrooms. He was using these images to further whatever. He has been charged. The question is what kind of penalty will he receive in the courts?

Canadians are concerned about that. Statistics will show that Canadians are concerned that the courts are not dealing with this in a proper manner. One source from the Ottawa Citizen says that in 1999 the Ontario Provincial Police pornography investigation unit executed 59 search warrants, laid 110 charges, arrested 28 people and performed 134 investigations. Unfortunately, what happens is these cases do not manage to get through the courts with any meaningful sentencing.

Therefore, Canadians are left with the feeling that not enough is being done, that the laws are not specific enough, that the courts can convict but that they not be taking this as seriously as Canadians do.

A Pollara poll taken last year found that 76 respondents agreed that passing a stronger child pornography law should be a high priority for the federal government. I do not think the government has even dealt with this. I know Bill C-20 is before the House, but most people are saying that it does not come anywhere close to dealing with the issue of child pornography.

Some 86% of Canadians disagree with the recent B.C. decision acquitting John Robin Sharpe of possession and distribution of child pornography. It is quite clear to me, and it should be clear to the House, that Canadians do not feel this government or the courts are doing enough to protect our children.

As was said before me, our most valuable asset is our children. We in the House have a duty to them to do everything possible to ensure that they are protected, and I include 14 year olds. I do not know how many members have 14 year old children or grandchildren, but let me say, they are not very mature. They may think they know what is good for them and they may think they know what they should be doing, but I can assure everyone, they do not.

One place for us to start is to recognize that a 14 year old is a child and that, as a child, they are not in a position of giving their consent to an adult relationship. I am not talking about a teenage to teenage relationship. Other countries have shown, as we have in the past, that close to age consent is something quite different. However, we owe it to our children to ensure that we do not have children in adult relationships that are inappropriate. We owe it to our children to ensure that they are not used as victims to create pornography that is used for purposes, which none of us here can possibly support. We owe it to our children to ensure that we do everything possible to protect them in the future.

I speak with an impassioned plea to those across the way to support this motion and to support the fact that the House broadly condemns the use of child pornography in Canadian society and that we ask the government and the courts to take it seriously because that is what Canadians want.