House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speaker in regard to the number of reasons why people were suggesting that the age of consent should be raised from 14 to 16 years of age.

One particular reason that he has not stated is that it is pretty obvious from all the information that we have gathered over the last few years that a huge majority of Canadians are asking for it. The last I heard they were the bosses of this place and we are their servants.

As their servants, why do we not comply with the wishes of the huge majority in this country and raise the age of consent?

Criminal Code
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4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gar Knutson Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question coming from the hon. member. I think reasonable people can differ on this. We come to the issue of the age of consent from different philosophical backgrounds, religious backgrounds, and cultural backgrounds. I think it is within the bounds of reason that people have different views.

They can also have different views about the appropriateness of using the criminal law to force people to behave in a certain way. The criminal law should be our last resort of making people do things. For example, as a father with three children, ages 14, 12 and 8, I have concerns about when they would engage in sexual activity and at what age. However, I do not rely on the criminal law to govern that activity.

I rely on providing them a good home, with certain standards, making certain decisions, and fundamentally appreciating that actions have consequences. At a certain age they are not old enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions and the best thing to do is to avoid certain activities that might have very serious consequences; and sexual activity is one of them.

To get to the member's point, we would disagree just on the fact that the overwhelming majority of Canadians think that the age of consent should be raised. In my constituency office, I do not see any particular evidence to that degree. This is not an issue on which I have received a number of telephone calls. Certainly, there are some people in the community who would like to see it raised to 16 years and I respect those views.

For the arguments that I have laid out, I do not think we want to criminalize sexual activity above a certain age. I think that it is an important view and I do not want to dismiss it out of hand. However, I do not believe that it represents the view of the overwhelming majority of Canadians as the member has indicated.

Criminal Code
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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask this member whether he thinks it is okay for a 25 year old to have sex with a 14 year old and if he does not think so, why does he not do something about it?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gar Knutson Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just addressed that in the previous questions. Of course, I do not think it is appropriate for a 25 year old--

Criminal Code
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4:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Criminal Code
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April 22nd, 2004 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gar Knutson Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member whether, given the seriousness of this topic, we could discuss it without interrupting each other because this is a serious topic.

It goes very much to the core beliefs of a majority of Canadians. I would like to ask the member not to heckle me while I am trying to give my response. I understand that is not the way it is normally done in this House, but I would think that, given the issue of child exploitation, we might not debate the way we normally do and that we might just be quiet and respectfully debate with each other, given that different people can have different views.

The point I was trying to make is that it is about the limitations of the criminal law and do we use that as a sledgehammer to bring about what I would think is a good social purpose?

I agree with his point that it is wrong, in a general sense, for a 25 year old to have sex with a 14 year old and that under certain circumstances the criminal law would intervene. It is in the bill and so I think that the hon. member should still support the bill.

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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this topic on one more occasion.

I do not disagree with a lot of the philosophy behind the thinking that goes with the bill. I do not care to get into those kind of philosophical debates as to whether we should have a law indicating it is not a smart thing for a 40 year old, for example, to convince a 14 year old to have an activity at that age. There should be a stringent law to deter people from that possibility, but that is not a major part of my concern in regard to the bill.

Many in here know from the past where my concern comes lies, and that with the protection of children through the elimination and absolute ban of child pornography. We recently voted on a motion I put forward in the House of Commons. It asked for the creation of legislation that would eliminate all defences for people using child pornography for the purpose of exploiting children. That motion was unanimously accepted.

The problem I have with Bill C-12 is it does not do that, and therein lies the debate. Many Liberals will say the words “artistic merit” have been removed from the bill, but the words “public good” have been replaced them. Therein lies the topic of my debate, child pornography.

I would like to point out something for all members of the House and for the Canadian public at large. As a member of Parliament and the opposition critic, I have been working on child pornography. This is not a sporadic incident or something that comes up occasionally or seldom.

Before I came here today, I did some research. I have examples showing that this is not an occasional incident. Cases of child exploitation through the use of child pornography happen every day across Canada. They are not reported, or printed in big headlines in newspapers or not talked about on television. This is going on in a huge way, and we are unable to recognize that fact.

I have recent article from the last few days which appeared in the Calgary Sun . The headline reads, “No Jail Time in Kiddie Porn Case”. This is a small article not a big article like we read on the front pages. A guy was convicted of kiddie porn, but he was not put in jail. He was considered treatable, and he would stop this nasty business. He received no punishment except house arrest. Just recently a former Saskatchewan RCMP officer was found guilty of child sex offences, and he too received house arrest as punishment.

These cases illustrate to all Canadians, particularly members in the House, that individuals in Canada who are charged and arrested or being investigated for the offence of using child pornography come from all walks of life. People sometimes think only bums or whoever might be doing this, but that is not so. Bankers, teachers, preachers, officers of the law and others are being charged with this offence. It is widespread, and it is a huge industry.

I have another case in which a Alberta man ran a child porn ring, an international group distributing child pornography on the Internet. They were making huge profits. Lots of big, grown-up men are making money from absolutely evil pictures that come across the Internet. They are exploiting our young children across the nation. More than 1,000 images and 250 video clips were on the computers of this individual. That is astounding. There were videos of the most awful stuff one could imagine, children as young as two years old having sexual acts with adults. If that is not evil, I do not know what else one would call it.

A 78 year old man from the Waterloo region faces child pornography charges. Good grief, a 78 year old man. Then a London child porn offender, and I am talking just this week, got house arrest. A huge amount of material and images which he had brought back with him from a business trip to some other parts of the world were found on his computer. It is unbelievable. This guy is a successful businessman, making big bucks off the avails of child pornography, involving very young children.

Another headline states that an ex-Children's Aid Society worker was busted again. This was in Windsor. He is 27 years old. He is back in custody. He was busted once again because he had all this filth in his possession which exploited young children. Another headline says that porn charges were laid in Niagara Falls. He is to appear in court in St. Catherines next week.

I could go on and on. I have a whole pile of these. I could give example after example. Any police force or anybody engaged in trying to do something about this serious problem will tell us that these are everyday occurrences and they are running rampant. We only hear about the sensational cases. I do not know if it is fair to call them that. We do not hear about all of them because I guess it has become unimportant to the media. It does not talk much about it.

Governments are not responding very well. I look at the Toronto police department. It has only a handful of officers to deal with millions and millions of items that they have taken from people in the Toronto area who are under investigation for breaking the laws using child pornography. I know there are members sitting in the House right now who have seen some of the material that the Toronto police officers have confiscated. They are trying to illustrate to all of us how serious this is. There are images of babies in diapers all the way to young teenagers who are absolutely abused to no end. It is unbelievable that it is happening.

We also know that through the hard and dedicated efforts of five or six police officers in the Toronto region, a six year old girl from North Carolina was rescued. They were able to determine from the images who this child was, locate her and get her out of that situation. As far as I am concerned, these Toronto police officers are national heroes for having done that.

However, it saddens me when I read their reports. They can only estimate, but they tell me there could be up to 100,000 children being used to produce child pornography, which is being distributed and used throughout the world. Out of that, a few of those, a great many of those or several hundred of those could be here in Canada. They could be right next door to us, but we do not know where they are. However, through their hard effort, hours and hours of going through this material and doing the best they could with it, these people were absolutely successful in finding this one.

I really think we should listen to the police departments when they call for the government to provide them with some funding to help them set up a national strategy across the land and connecting with international agencies. Then they could really go after this in full force and defeat this evil enemy that is child pornography, the enemy of our children. Lord knows we would not have any trouble finding the funding when we look at where some of our funding goes.

Obviously, every member in the House agrees that needs to happen. They expressed that in the vote which I spoke about earlier. They said that they wanted to get rid of it. The only way we can do this is by first passing legislation that removes the possibility for anybody in this land to have possession of, distribute or make a fortune out of any child pornography that exploits the children.

We ran into a little problem recently. A fellow by the name of Sharpe ended up in court and some judge declared that some of the material he had in his possession had some artistic merit. Because of that decision, artistic merit was written into the law as a defence. There was an outcry from the public, and I was really pleased to be part of that, saying that we had to remove artistic merit. There is no defence for people exploiting children through child pornography. Everybody agrees on that. Then the government comes down with Bill C-12, and there is the problem. What has it done? It has replaced artistic merit with the words “public good”.

How long will it be before some child pornographer, who is brought to court and charged, pleads innocent under this law, Bill C-12, of public good? We do not even know what that public good might be. Will it be because a particular piece of stuff has some artistic value to it or some other value to it and the person will fight for the right to produce or use it for his or her own personal purpose, whatever they might be? We do not know what that public good definition will be, but one day we will know. Some judge, somewhere, in some court will have to define it because this legislation does not.

My suggestion to every member in the House is let us live up to the vote we recently had to eliminate all defences. Let us do that by protecting those individuals who may have a purpose for having this child pornography material in their possession.

I tried, to no avail, to convince a number of people from the governing party in this place, the Liberals, that all we need to do is cover all the possibilities we could think of and include them in the act if they happened to be missing. They have not done that. They continue to leave “public good” in place.

Therefore, I have a suggestion for this bill and this particular section. I have put together a private member's bill, which I have introduced. The clause in this private member's bill is going to say that when the accused is charged with an offence under the child pornography section-and I will not go into all the numbers--“the court shall find the accused not guilty if the [visual] representation or written material that is alleged to constitute child pornography has an educational, scientific, or medical purpose”. I want to add to that: “or if the acts that are alleged to constitute the offence were carried out for the purposes of law enforcement”.

What that does is protect bona fide doctors, psychiatrists and scientists who might be using this material for scientific, medical or educational purposes. Also, it protects the police who are investigating when they take this material into their possession. We need to protect those bona fide individuals who are working hard to stamp out child pornography. We can do that by including them in this clause.

Therefore, we could eliminate the items of “public good”. The undefined “public good” could be removed. Then we could send a message to the courts that they are to protect the bona fide doctors, scientists, psychologists, investigators, police forces or whatever agency it might be as long as it is for those medical, scientific, educational or law enforcement purposes. We do not want anybody who has a legitimate reason for having this in their possession to be arrested and charged.

However, more than anything else, I do not want to subject one more police officer in this country--and I am sure every member in here would agree with me--to having to sit in a chair day after day and hour after hour determining whether any of this filth that they have confiscated has any public good or artistic merit or any of that to it. We must not do that.

We must quit exposing our enforcers of the law to that, because it is driving them up the wall. And so it would if we had nothing else to do but go through all of these millions and millions of pieces of material that they have in the Toronto police department alone. It would have to drive someone around the deep bend. I know that there are members in here who know what I am talking about because they have seen those examples that were confiscated.

Let us put an end to it and get a strong message out to those who would perpetrate it upon our children. We are not going to look at this idea that the right to freedom of expression of a person who is going to exploit children through child pornography is going to override the rights of a child in this land to be safe from this kind of enemy.

We can do it. This government could do it. Bill C-12 does not do it because those two words, “public good”, are still in the bill. Let us get rid of it. Let us protect all those guys who are doing their work. Let us do the right thing. Let us all do what we as members of the House of Commons did when we unanimously agreed that we would eliminate all defences. Let us do it and do it now.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I should put on the record the motion that my hon. colleague has alluded to and for which, unfortunately, he left out a phrase. The motion stated:

...protect our children from further sexual exploitation by immediately eliminating from child pornography laws all defences for possession of child pornography which allow for the exploitation of children.

The important part is “which allow for the exploitation of children”.

We have allowed the public good defence. Why? Because police officers need it. We do not want to be charging police officers if they are in touch with this material. The public good is important because the people who have to prosecute, the people who have to take these things before a court and get the convictions where warranted, need the public good defence. That is part of it. It is already there.

I might say that we are here at third reading debate and third reading debate means that we get to vote to get this bill to the Senate. But guess what? I am actually standing to respond to this member's speech not on the real third reading debate but on a hoist motion, which has removed this so we could not vote to send it to the Senate. Why? Because those members wanted to procedurally delay it in the House. The hoist motion is to put it back into the committee.

It has already passed the committee. It has already passed the second reading and report stages in the House. This bill is needed. It is needed not in six months. It was needed yesterday in our courtrooms. It is needed because there are protections for the children who have to go court, protections to help them do their witnessing and their testifying. It is needed because the judges need these new laws to help them in light of decisions by the court.

Let me tell members that we craft things such as “public good” to respond to decisions such as Sharpe to make sure that what we can do will stand up. This is not some figment of one person's imagination. It is very easy to read the litany of the crimes in a newspaper, but we know that it is more important and is our responsibility here to pass the laws that help. That is what we could have been doing instead of delaying this bill.

I have been here as the parliamentary secretary listening to hoist motion debates and it is not pretty. We could have gotten this bill through had we had the cooperation from the other side.

I want to talk a little about what exactly public good means. It means, in this defence, that any material or act in question must serve the public good and must not exceed what serves the public good. That means, unlike the existing defence of artistic merit in the subsection in the code, the proposed public good defence would require a two stage analysis. Does the material or act or serve the public good in any of the recognized areas? If so, does it go beyond what serves the public good? No defence is available where it does not serve the public good or poses a risk or harm that exceeds what serves the public good.

We have to act responsibly. It is difficult to craft something that stands up in the courts and still does the job. We have crafted a bill. We are not trying to delay this bill. We are not trying to delay the protections. This bill is very, very important. I think what we should do now--

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was wondering whether the member thought she was making a speech or whether she was posing a question to my colleague. I think she just answered it, so let us let her go on.

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5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The member is entitled to make comments or ask questions. I would ask her to limit her time to approximately half of the questioning time and to continue, please.

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5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Here is my question for the member, Madam Speaker. Why has he participated in delaying the bill in the House? The legislation is needed.

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5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, in case this member was not here, I sat in here most of the day watching the Liberal government filibuster Bill C-11, which we have agreed should be hurried and should get done, and then she dares to accuse me of suddenly getting up to speak on this bill, which I have not spoken to since it was initiated.

I am going to take the opportunity to speak to it because this is my first kick at it and I want to express some things. There is one thing I really want to express to the member, who must be a lawyer, because only a lawyer would stand at her seat and constantly agree that we need a clause like “public good”, because I will guarantee that this clause will bring case after case to the courts. It will be a lawyers' haven. Boy, will they have a lot of work to do to determine if there is any public good in child pornography.

I would like any member, any lawyer in the country, to tell me that it is worth spending hours and hours and tons and tons of money to determine whether a piece of garbage like we have witnessed, and like what the police are going through, is for the public good of any kind, of any nature.

All I am asking for, and all we have ever asked for from the beginning, is some legislation that would remove the defence from these people who exploit children.

Maybe I left it out, but the member knows very well that it was in the motion: to eliminate “all defences”. Also, if she was listening, I suggested that we protect our law officials, doctors, medical people and educators.

What are her priorities? Her priorities appear to be to get everything in the proper legal terms, which most people will not even be able to understand, to make sure that the courts will be filled with people who are going to make claims so they can be protected under the public good while they are exploiting our children. The police are going to have continue to spend hour after hour going through all this material to determine if there is any possibility that there is any public good, like they had to do for the artistic merit work. It is no wonder that people like John Sharpe, along with other pedophiles across the country, cheered when this legislation came through.

The trouble is that this particular member, as well as too many members in here, lives on a higher plane, above average Canadians, because 90% or so of average Canadians would say, “For heaven's sake, get rid of that garbage and get rid of it in the firmest way you possibly can”.

And yes, my suggestion might even go against the charter of rights, because it would take away the right of some idiot out there to use this material for his own personal use or whatever.

I am telling this lady and this House and this country that it is time today to stand up and say they are not going to use the charter to exploit our children or to protect themselves and that we are going to put in laws that will protect children. That is more important than protecting the rights of these idiots who would produce, distribute and use this to damage young people.

The government needs to get firmer and not give me any more legal garble and babble-gabble about what may happen. I know what is going to happen. It is going to be in the courts constantly because the government does not have the fortitude to put the law in place and mean business about it.

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5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to commend my colleague for his compassion and passion on this issue.

What I would like to pose to him as a question, because we have such a very limited time, is simply this. He proposed during his speech that instead of having the defence of artistic merit or public good, either of those defences, we would simply list those people who would be able to possess this for a valid, legal reason, whether they were prosecutors or whatever.

I wonder whether he is afraid that perhaps by having a specific list someone may be convicted who was inadvertently omitted from the list. In other words, who should be on the list and who should not?

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5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, as was stated earlier, we have already in there educational, scientific, medical purposes, but I would also include for law enforcement purposes. From those descriptions of what it may be used for, then bona fide people who are in those professions and could possibly be tied to any of that, they only need to be recognized as being a bona fide doctor, psychiatrist, prosecutor or whatever.

We do not need to make a list. We just have to make sure that those four areas are protected when it is absolutely certain that is what it is being used for, but for Pete's sake, we must stop the exploitation of children by not leaving any cracks where it can happen. It is important to me and I hope it is to the rest of us.

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5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in the debate, although I see the time is somewhat limited this evening.

I was at least encouraged to hear the previous speaker advance the fact that now he is giving a selection of items that were clearly referred to as examples that would be included as serving the public good in Bill C-12. I think we are starting to make some progress. We are starting to see that in fact we cannot start off with a bill that has absolutely no means of allowing people to deal with that issue, and the phrase “public good” is an excellent way of expressing that. The hon. member has come a long way toward accepting that principle.

Today I find this a special opportunity to discuss and debate further the issues that are so important, as everyone has pointed out today. I believe this discussion, although it has gone on at some length, should go forward with the concept of trying all ways and means that are meaningful to protect our children while preserving all the rights that are within our charter. I say that of course because Bill C-12 does bring forward, not just child pornography reforms in terms of criminal law, but actually goes beyond that and brings forward other reforms which better protect those who are most near and dear to us, our children, and those people with disabilities.

Bill C-12 is much needed and welcome and I look forward to the reforms that it will introduce. Each of us wants to make sure that the criminal law meets the needs and concerns of Canadians, especially those who are most vulnerable, which includes those with disabilities and our children.

Although the previous speaker concentrated on one particular area of the bill, we must understand and appreciate that there are a number of areas that are being addressed. First, the bill deals with the concept of strengthening our existing child pornography provisions in two respects. One is to broaden the definition of written child pornography to include material that is created for a sexual purpose and predominantly describes prohibited sexual activity with children and the other would narrow the existing child pornography defences so that there would only be one defence of public good.

Within the scope of public good, the previous speaker's commentary about dealing with science, education, law enforcement, the administration and process, the medical issues that arise from this, and the entire study process, this is developing the idea of public good. I am very happy to see that there is some movement in my hon. friend who previously spoke to this concept, because up until this point there was a desire on the part of that party to simply say that there should be absolutely no defence.

I think those members are starting to get the idea. They are starting to develop the concept that there are legitimate uses that have to be there. There have to be opportunities to educate our people to deal with the medical realities and to go through and deal with the administration of justice.

I think it is very important that we are making progress in that area. In narrowing the defences to the one defence of public good, is something that will better serve the public interest, but I think there is a limitation on that.

As one would argue for public good as a concept, one would also have to put a cap on that because we cannot let it go beyond a certain point. The point that has been determined is that one has to weigh the entire public good against the risk of harm that it would pose. Therefore, when it outweighs the benefit, that is the public good defence, to society, then in fact it would be limited.

Second, the bill also proposes to create a new prohibited category of sexual exploitation of young persons. I think the examples that were given by the previous speaker speak to those points. What we are concerned about is the exploitation of children.