House of Commons Hansard #152 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour to present a petition from constituents in my riding. They call upon Parliament to reject Bill C-22, to consider parental rights along with parental responsibilities and begin with the presumption of mandatory equal parenting in the event of a divorce.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to present 12 petitions from different communities in my riding. These are from the communities of Wildwood, Edson, Jasper, Drayton Valley, Barrhead, Alberta Beach, Hinton, Grand Cache, Mayerthorpe, Tomahawk, Onoway, and Calahoo.

The petitioners are very concerned about the definition of marriage being retained and they want an open debate in the country. They are petitioning the government to have the definition of marriage retained as being between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present three petitions. Most of these are from the maritimes of Canada. They are also asking that Parliament pass legislation recognizing the institution of marriage in federal law as being between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Bertrand Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to present a petition on behalf of Canadians who wish to draw the attention of the House to the following: that marriage is the best foundation for families and for the raising of children; that the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman is being challenged; and that this hon. House passed a motion in June 1999 that called for marriage to continue to be defined as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today signed by a number of Canadians including from my own riding of Mississauga South.

The petitioners would like to remind Parliament that on June 10, 2003, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the traditional definition of marriage was unconstitutional. They also want to point out that under section 33 of our Constitution, referred to as the notwithstanding clause, that the charter provision could be overridden.

Therefore the petitioners call upon Parliament to invoke the notwithstanding clause so that the traditional definition of marriage being the legal union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others remain the law in Canada.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, it my privilege to table in the House the names of petitioners calling upon Parliament to immediately hold a renewed debate on the definition of marriage, reaffirming, as it did in 1999, that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament should take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

November 6th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement government orders will be extended by 24 minutes.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

There is one motion in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-20.

Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted upon.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

moved:

That Bill C-20 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-20 and the amendment before us.

I would like to make it very clear that members of the NDP support the measures in the bill that are clearly presented and defined. We believe they will help protect children, a goal that is certainly shared by all of us in the NDP and I think by all members of the House.

We believe we have an obligation to do whatever we can to protect children in our society and to stop the abuse and exploitation of children in every form, whether through child pornography or any other way. That is something that we support very strongly. It is a very important value.

In presenting the amendment today to delete clause 7, we do so because we believe the present wording of clause 7 is very vague. Clause 7 talks about the public good defence. We believe that it may, as a result of being very vague, be very difficult to catch child pornographers, while at the same time there are concerns that we will be endangering the rights of artists from pursuing legitimate artistic expression or researchers and health workers from dealing with the effects of child abuse and sexual trauma.

We believe that the defence of the public good, as has been put forward in the bill, would transfer too much power and discretion to the courts. For example, it may take years of litigation and jurisprudence for the courts to decide exactly how to apply this defence of the public good in relation to child porn laws. I do not think that is something anyone wants to see.

The scope of the public good is ironically both, on the one hand, too broad and, on the other hand, too narrow. In fact, what we need to be doing in the bill is clarifying it to ensure that the most essential point is that the police will be able to make sound decisions in their investigations of a suspected child pornographer to protect children. Second, that artists who are legitimately engaging in artistic expression will not be prosecuted because of that legitimate activity.

We realize that these are difficult issues but surely our role here as parliamentarians in examining the bill is to make sure the clarification on these issues is very clear and that it does not become a subject of ongoing and endless debate in the court system.

In speaking to the amendment today and urging the deletion of clause 7, we believe that clarifying the definition of the public good is something that has not yet been resolved or taken place. It needs to happen here in Parliament.

We do need to be sending a clear message to the courts on how we want the legislation to be implemented and approached. The way it stands now is that I think there is still ambiguity.

We have presented this amendment because we believe the bill is just not good enough. We want to see a good job done on the bill. A tremendous amount of effort went into the bill and its goal is to protect children from sexual exploitation. We want to do it in a way that we are clearly delineating artistic merit. We believe that the provision in the bill as it stands now is simply not adequate to do that.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the motion put forward today proposes to delete clause 7 of Bill C-20, which is an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act.

In essence the motion seeks to maintain the status quo on child pornography. Simply stated, the government does not accept the status quo and neither do Canadians.

Clause 7 of Bill C-20 proposes two reforms to the existing child pornography provisions. First, it proposes to broaden the existing definition of written child pornography to include written material that describes prohibited sexual activity with children where that description is the dominant characteristic of the material and it is done for a sexual purpose.

Second, Bill C-20 proposes to narrow the two existing defences into one defence of public good, a term that is now specifically defined in the bill. Under the new law no defence would be available where the material or act in question does not serve the public good or where it exceeds or goes beyond what serves the public good. More simply stated, if the risk of harm that it poses outweighs the benefit that it offers to society, then no defence would be available.

The motion to delete clause 7 does more than just seek to maintain the status quo; in fact it says the opposite of what Bill C-20 proposes. It says that written materials that consist primarily of descriptions of unlawful sexual activity with children which descriptions are done for a sexual purpose are not child pornography and that they should not fall within the reach of the criminal law.

In the 2001 Sharpe case, the Supreme Court of Canada interpreted “for a sexual purpose” as being that which can be reasonably perceived as intended to cause sexual stimulation. With this interpretation in mind, it is difficult if not impossible to comprehend the basis for any argument that seeks to support and protect materials that mostly describe the sexual abuse of children and where these descriptions can be reasonably perceived as intended or intending to cause the reader to be sexually stimulated.

It is quite significant that our existing criminal law already clearly prohibits the sexual exploitation of children. The types of written material that this motion seeks to protect are those that portray or purport to portray children as a class of objects for sexual exploitation.

The government recognizes the very real risk of harm that such portrayal and objectification of children poses to our children and to society at large. That is why Bill C-20 proposes to include these types of materials within our definition of child pornography.

The second thing the motion seeks to do is to maintain the current test for when child pornographic materials should be protected by the defence of artistic merit.

Under the current test for artistic merit, the defence is automatically available for material that, objectively viewed, demonstrates some artistic merit no matter how small. For example, if the material in question is a written story, the question becomes, objectively viewed does the story reflect some accepted or recognized literary techniques or styles? If so, the defence is available irrespective of whether the risk of harm that the story poses to children and society outweighs any benefit that it offers.

The government does not agree with and does not support the existing test for artistic merit and neither do Canadians. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended Bill C-20 accepting the government's amendment to define the public good as including acts or material that are necessary or advantageous to the administration of justice or the pursuit of science, medicine, education or art.

This definition closely models the language of the Supreme Court of Canada when it interpreted public good in the Sharpe case. Accordingly, the interpretation of Bill C-20 will be guided by the Supreme Court's judgment in this case.

A number of witnesses representing the arts community appeared before the justice committee on Bill C-20 to express concerns that their work or that of fellow artists would be criminalized by Bill C-20. I believe that their concerns are at the heart of this motion.

The justice committee's amendment of Bill C-20 to include a definition of the public good directly responds to those concerns expressed not only by the arts community but also to those expressed by child advocates appearing before the committee. They wanted greater clarity in the bill as to what constituted the public good. However, as to the balance of the concerns raised by the arts community witnesses, a number of observations or points in reply should be made.

The first question to be considered and answered in any potential child pornography case is the following: Does the work in question meet the Criminal Code's definition of child pornography? The written works that were described by these witnesses to the justice committee would not meet the existing definition of written child pornography, that is, they could not be said to advocate or counsel unlawful sexual activity with children. Neither would they meet Bill C-20's proposed new definition. That is, they could not be said to be works that one, were comprised primarily of descriptions of unlawful sexual activity with children and two, that such descriptions were written for a sexual purpose.

The second level of inquiry, and one which falls to the courts to determine, is if the material meets the definition of child pornography, is it protected by a defence? Under Bill C-20, as I have already outlined, there would only be one defence and its test would be a two step inquiry and yes, it is possible for art to meet such a two step inquiry.

Bill C-20 in its preamble clearly identifies the bill's objective. It states:

Whereas the Parliament of Canada has grave concerns regarding the vulnerability of children to all forms of exploitation, including child pornography, sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect;

The motion to delete clause 7 of Bill C-20 and to maintain the status quo for child pornography is not only incompatible with Bill C-20's objectives, it is antithetical.

I urge all hon. members to support Canada's children and to support Bill C-20 as passed by the justice committee and not to support this motion.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to this motion, which the Canadian Alliance will support not because we support artistic merit but because we do not support the broad definition of public good.

In the John Robin Sharpe case the judge considered some of those vile, ugly drawings to have some sort of artistic merit. That has been a problem with us and, I think, the nation. Even the hon. member across the way who spoke would agree that those drawings should not have been considered to have artistic merit.

Under Bill C-20 the existing defences of child pornography, that is, artistic merit or educational, scientific or medical purposes, are reduced to the single defence of “for the public good”. This leaves in the hands of the judges the determination of what is for the public good.

Furthermore, despite the justice minister's attempt to sell Bill C-20 to Parliament and to the nation on the basis that the artistic merit defence has been eliminated, he admitted recently in the justice committee that it is still included under the broader defence of “for the public good”. Here is what the minister said at the justice committee:

Artistic merit still exists in the sense that a piece of art will have to essentially go through the new defence of public good and through the two stages. Of course, the first question is always this. Does it serve the public good?

We on this side of the House object to that and I think Parliament objected to it last week. My memory is sometimes not very accurate and not very clear, but I do remember that last week the House passed a private member's bill in the name of my hon. colleague from Wild Rose. That bill calls upon Parliament to bring forward legislation against child pornography that would remove all defences and would in effect stamp out child pornography, all defences for child pornography that would exploit children and all defences against criminal possession of child pornography.

There is a difference obviously of using some material for certain purposes. We understand that because some of us in the House had the opportunity to be briefed by the crime unit from Toronto some months ago on the nature of child pornography and how awful and terrible it is. We understand that use as being a legitimate one. It was not criminal possession and it did not have to be judged by any kind of law to find out if it was for the public good or not. We understand that it was very helpful in that particular case. We would not think that the law should remove the opportunity for our law makers to view this sort of thing to see what the problem is for our law enforcement officials to use it.

My belief here today is very simple. Parliament just last week said that we should remove all defences for criminal possession of child pornography that exploits children. We do not have to work too hard at figuring out the exploitation of children by that kind of material.

As we look around the House of Commons this week it is probably in its most floral stage. There are more flowers in here than perhaps those outside decorating for Christmas. We remember the veterans who fought in the wars that gave us the freedoms that we enjoy in this nation. None of us would want to deny the fact that these freedoms have been hard fought for, they have been won at the cost of the lives of many of our finest, over the years of the history of this nation.

However, they did not die so that such garbage could be pushed upon society. They did not die so that such garbage could be used to penetrate and bring about harm in the lives of our children. They did not die so that our children could be preyed upon by adult sexual predators in this nation or in any nation.

They did not die for that reason. I believe they died because they wanted a nation that had freedom for families and parents raising children, a nation where parents could raise children in the safety of a free nation, the safety of a nation where the children were free.

Can members imagine that? Can members imagine the children of this nation being set free to play on the playgrounds of this country, to play on the playgrounds of the schools, to walk safely home on the sidewalks of our cities and not be in fear of being grabbed or used or taken by sexual predators who run free in this land?

I think we need to remember why these people died, why they gave their lives, and I think we need to remember the kind of freedom they wanted us to have.

I know that many people will not agree with what I am going to say, but let me tell them that I believe there is no such thing as artistic merit in child pornography. There is no such thing as artistic merit. That kind of garbage is not art and it does not need protection.

That kind of garbage is not put there for educational purposes. Not only is it put there to pervert the mind of the one who is producing that kind of garbage, but it is put there to pervert the minds of others. It is there to pervert the minds of other adults and to allow those minds to feed upon this kind of garbage and imagine in their own minds the kinds of things that they might want to do with the children of this land. That has to stop. There is no sense in protecting that kind of thing.

Yes, we want to have freedom in this land, but as we all know, our freedoms are all guided by certain limits. When we drive down the highway, we assert the freedom to drive and to have a driver's licence and an automobile, but as we drive we are restrained by white lines and yellow lines, stop signs and stoplights and all the laws we have. Everything we do is somehow defined and constrained by certain laws.

I do not think we should have absolute unhindered freedom to produce the kind of garbage that places our children in danger in this country.

A Parliament, a nation, a people and a society that cannot place our children truly in a priority position of safety and protection is not a good society. It is a weak society. It is a crumbling society. If it cannot protect its own young people and its own children, it is a society that is on its way to destruction.

We need to remove all kinds of pretended defences for things that place our young people at risk. It is absurd to think that some artist should have the right to depict these kinds of things when it puts our children at risk and when that very depiction is there only for the promotion of evil, for the promotion of predatory thoughts and actions.

We believe that this government needs to go back to square one with this legislation. This will put it back to square one. It needs to start over and put in something here that will be in keeping with the motion this House passed just last week.