House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was child.

Topics

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, just with regard to Cybertip, I want to point out, not wanting to be partisan on this issue, that it was an NDP government in Manitoba that first brought it in, modelling it to some degree after a Labour government out of England.

I want to take some issue with the last comments that my friend from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe made. Although he is accurate about totalitarian regimes shutting off the Internet, in effect, from this type of material, and also for all sorts of material and the exchange of information within those regimes, the reality is that the vast majority of the material that is being produced, where the children are being victimized, where they are being abused, in some cases to the point of being killed to produce this child pornography, in fact is coming out of some of those totalitarian regimes: Eastern Europe in particular, parts of Russia and other parts of Asia.

A significant proportion is coming out of the United States as well, but the majority is coming out of those jurisdictions. So I do not want any impression left that we should be looking to those totalitarian regimes as the model to be followed.

When Cybertip was in front of us at committee, they made it quite clear that they did not have sufficient resources. I would just ask my colleague whether he would be supportive of urging the government to provide greater financial resources to Cybertip so that for some of the programs that they want to initiate or expand, they would be able to do so.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, we do not have time to argue which countries are the worst offenders, but in terms of posting sites, the United States is first with 49%, Russia is second with 20%, we are third at 9%, and Japan is fourth at 4%.

Those are all reasonably developed countries. I understand that crimes are perpetrated in third-world countries, in non-developed countries and in totalitarian countries. I think he and I might agree, however, that in Europe, great strides have been made in curbing the hosting of Internet porn sites, and that is where we have common ground.

Finally, his comments on Cybertip could not have been more well chosen. For instance, in their evidence they said that illegal sites regularly change location. In other words, it is incredibly hard to pin these sites down.

Their evidence was in observing it, because they observe this as part of their mandate in Manitoba and other places. In a period of 48 hours, Cybertip counted 212 Internet protocol addresses in 16 countries for one website. This is like the spreading of mercury on the floor. It is incredibly hard to detect and very resource driven. Money is needed, financial resources. That is where I join with my friend in agreement.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Madam Speaker, I previously put a question to the parliamentary secretary in the Conservative Party and I did not feel that I got the right answer. So I would like to ask for my Liberal colleague's response.

Websites are very simple. The website goes up. It is hosted in a particular country on a particular domain, and if we know that the website is spreading information or has pictures of young adults or child porn, the Government of Canada can simply legislate in order to shut it down.

My question for the parliamentary secretary was why it is not doing this. What I got was that there will be a reporting system, and so on and so on. A reporting system is fine, and certainly we could spend $42 million for a reporting system. We are third in the world in the hosting of these pictures of kids and child porn.

It is very simple. The government moves and it orders the service providers to shut them down. The service providers have to oblige and shut them down, and these websites are gone, erased, so we are no longer third in the world.

It is a simple solution. The government can amend the legislation, can act on the legislation and send a directive out and shut these things down.

I would like to get my colleague's views on this.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, it certainly seems simple, and I agree with the member for Scarborough—Agincourt totally.

This bill, of course, cannot be amended. It is way beyond the scope of this bill to shut down Internet sites, and so on. This bill is about reporting, about the Internet service provider reporting, if they get a tip. As I said, it is too little, too late.

The government could bring in a new piece of legislation. It could do part of what my friend suggests. One of the problems that Cybertip mentioned is that a website can change location in a few minutes by using a network of personal computers that are known as zombies. In other words, they keep moving around to computers that are vacant, or zombies.

However, what is clear is that the Internet service providers, the companies, know that these zombies exist. The solution would be by legislation with respect to these zombies that provide the content of the website but can never be caught. Cybertip recommended that when zombies are detected, the ISPs, the companies running the networks to which these computers are connected, should be able to suspend service to those computers until the infected computers are restored or removed.

That is a law that needs to be enacted. I think the government has to be firm. It has to tell these companies that provide Internet services that this is the way it is going to be. If we enforce it--

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I recognize that this is a good bill. It is not outstanding, but it is useful despite its limitations. It was about time that it was introduced. It comes after a similar bill which, if I am not mistaken, was introduced by the Liberals in a previous Parliament. At any rate, consideration of that bill was stopped because of prorogation in 2009.

The government deserves much criticism for not having moved this good bill forward, considering that all members agreed with its provisions. However, before criticizing the government, I will outline what this bill does.

Bill C-22 is entitled “An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service.” Again, as in so many instances before, it is important to remind those who will read this piece of legislation that it does not require Internet service providers to ensure even minimal monitoring of the sites they host to determine whether they contain juvenile pornography.

Let us take a look at the duties under this bill. It allows ordinary citizens who stumble across a child pornography site immediately notify their Internet service provider. It is then incumbent upon the provider to relay all pertinent information to an agency, which remains to be determined although the government assures us it will be. Will this be done in 2020? We cannot tell. At the rate at which the government is moving on implementing its legislation, it could take a very long time.

That is basically what is required of the Internet service provider. If I happen upon a child pornography site, I notify my Internet service provider. It is not asking much of the provider to notify the police. It has the duty to do so, and to provide any pertinent information to the agency that will eventually be designated.

The service provider must then preserve the information on the site for 21 days. That time was discussed in committee. In fact, it is ample time for the police to do what they need to do. We understand that someone has to determine whether the site actually contains child pornography, where the site is, and where it migrated from. A member who spoke before me talked about this. It is apparently very easy for people who are familiar with computer technology to have these kinds of sites that wander from one provider to another, from a Canadian ISP to an American ISP, from an American ISP to a Japanese ISP, and come back via a European ISP. There is some complexity involved.

The first duty of a service provider that receives information from a member of the public is to preserve, report and notify. Once it has preserved the information for 21 days, it then has an obligation to destroy the data from that Internet service.

Second, obviously, the bill provides that the information must be retained confidentially. That goes without saying. The service provider will not be alerted that it is about to be eliminated, we don’t know exactly when, and that it may get caught in the next few days. The information must therefore remain confidential.

This bill is very short. I have addressed about four clauses out of 12. To understand the next clauses, we have to know that it is currently illegal to view a pedophile or child pornography website. However, if you have viewed one and have said so, have reported it to your Internet service provider, you will have immunity; as well, no civil proceeding can be commenced against you. I imagine that it would be the service provider that would want to do that. So this bill is stating the obvious. I hope that no action would be brought against someone because they reported an Internet site, which they in fact have no obligation to report, contrary to what this bill implies at the outset. There can be no proceedings brought. Let us suppose that a mistake has been made and it was not genuinely child pornography—I do not know how such mistakes can be made, but let us suppose. We can rest easy; the provider cannot bring proceedings against us because we have immunity.

That is essentially all there is in this bill. It is not long, but it is important to have it to supplement various measures that have been taken elsewhere, in particular the creation of specialized police squads and the development of various techniques that use addresses to identify the people who design these sites, so that proceedings can be brought against them. As we often realize, we may discover that they are continuing to make sites like these, and that in doing so they are using children. Thus they are committing assault and may even be forcibly confining children who are victims. This bill is very useful, and it is another weapon in the police arsenal for combatting a crime that is unfortunately too easy to commit.

That being said, I cannot get over seeing the government boast about this bill. First, we heard the ineffable Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice with his ineffable knowledge of the issues. He said it was a source of pride and glory for Canada, at the Palermo meeting, when everyone voted unanimously. Well, we came last in the class. Not only were we last in the class, but there were already at least four provinces ahead of the Canadian government: Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario. Those are the provinces that founded Cybertip.ca, the organization he was talking about. Maybe that will be the designated organization. That organization seems to be very valuable, but for the moment it has not yet been designated. Cybertip.ca seeks out child pornography sites. When it finds them, it reports them to the police. That organization was created by the provinces.

The member said again that we were the first in the world, that our ideas were received unanimously, and that we were applauded. Well, sometimes the last ones to get there are applauded. It was high time to get there, because we are already modelling it on similar legislation in the United States, Australia, South Africa, France, Belgium and most European countries.

So he demonstrated once again what this government worries about; it is always how well a bill can be used for demagoguery. This one, apparently, was not useful enough for the government to pay attention to it, so it left it hanging. It has been hanging for five years now. Yes, we are in a hurry to pass it. So instead of constantly accusing us of delaying its bills, the government should present us with the bills on which it knows all members are in agreement, and we will pass them quickly.

In its bills, however, it continues to try to force us onto the same path as the American Republicans to the south, when its party has the support of only a little more than a third of the population of Canada. I often hear the Minister of Justice boasting about his bills, saying that we will see how popular the Conservatives are, as compared to us, and things along that line, come the election. That is his only concern. With my age and experience and the evidence of what I have done in the past, I think I can venture to say, without the people in my riding lynching me, that the direction they want us to take has put the United States, our neighbours to the south, on the road to disaster. In a single generation, it has become the country that imprisons more people than anywhere else in the world: the American incarceration rate is the highest anywhere.

The policies that the Minister of Justice wants to adopt are always the same: he wants us to help him put as many people as possible in prison for as long as possible. That sums up virtually all of the bills he has presented us with. On top of that, he dresses most of his bills up with misleading titles.

There is one bill he still trying to get mileage out of today, namely the so-called anti-child trafficking bill. In fact, he did get some mileage, because all parties but the Bloc Québécois were spooked. Even the Senate was spooked. Yet, when we read this bill on child trafficking—which does not take long, a mere three minutes—nowhere are the words child trafficking to be found. Putting forward legislation on child trafficking that does not mention child trafficking—that takes some doing.

What is clear from reading the bill is that it actually deals with the exploitation of persons under the age of 18. Obviously, child trafficking is a form of exploitation of a category of children, namely minor children. But to punish any and all instances of exploitation of persons under the age of 18 with a five-year minimum sentence is a bit much. That is the kind of excess we are headed for.

Because we denounced that, he keeps saying that we are against protecting children and in favour of child trafficking. That is just not true. We are against child trafficking. At the same time, we are against painting all instances of exploitation of minors with the same brush.

In fact, the definition of exploitation of minors would apply specifically to the exploitation of seniors. In Quebec, there is a very smart and excellent ad campaign against the exploitation of seniors. The behaviour described and explained in the ad corresponds precisely to the definition found in this bill, which is not about child trafficking, but the exploitation of minors.

The Minister of Justice always has ulterior motives when he proposes something. He tries to see how many votes he can get for the Conservatives, how much he can annoy and scare the other parties by criticizing them, how he can show that he is tough on crime and how many more people he can put behind bars for even longer. That is what the Americans have done. We, however, are trying to provide the best ways to fight crime.

This is one way to fight crime, namely to allow people who end up inadvertently or deliberately finding child pornography—which they are not allowed to do because just looking at child pornography is an offence—to do something about it, report the material to their Internet service provider or to the police. If they report it to their Internet service provider, the latter is required to do something about it, follow procedures to notify the police, preserve evidence for a certain amount of time and shut down the website.

The federal government lagged behind the rest of the west in this area and it even lagged behind four provinces. It is high time we took action. I still have time left, but I have said enough. The sooner this bill is passed, the better.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, the member sits on the justice committee and has had a detailed look at the legislation.

While many of us think the bill could have done more and could have been enacted sooner, it is kind of a snitch law, and we do not have many of those in our Criminal Code.

Does the member think the bill might raise some new challenges. I am not in any way undermining the apparent support for the passage of the bill. There are not very places in our Criminal Code where we say that failure to do a particular thing constitutes a criminal offence. A case where that does happen, for example, is the failure to provide necessities of life for a child.

In this case, given that it is a very brief bill, does the member think the prosecutors might have difficulties trying to prove a negative, or trying prove intent, knowledge and facts that prove a negative, which prove that nothing happened, including no reporting? Based on the member's experience, is this a potential problem? Does he think, as legislators, we may have to spend some more time on this in the future?

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, Internet service providers are required to report to the police sites reported to them by people who discover said sites when surfing the Internet. If the people who report these sites see that they are still up after a certain period of time, they could go to the police and inform them that they already reported the site to the ISP. The police can take them at their word and go after the Internet service provider. This legislation does not create many requirements. It does not require Internet service providers to do everything they can not to host child pornography sites.

Employees of Internet service providers who discover child pornography sites in course of their work are also required to report such sites to the police. Evidence would probably be produced by employees who report sites to their employer, the Internet service provider. The employees might later realize that the employer did nothing about it.

I thought my colleague was going to ask me whether this is consistent with the Charter or not. He did not mention it, but in my opinion, there is no problem in that respect. Requirements not to do something exist in a number of laws, provincial laws in any case. I know that in Quebec, there is a requirement to report a situation in which a child is in danger to the head of youth protection services. Exceptional measures are taken when children are involved.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague sits on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Clause 12 of the bill proposed by the government is as follows:

A prosecution for an offence under this Act cannot be commenced more than two years after the time when the act or omission giving rise to the prosecution occurred.

Of all the bills introduced by the government, this is the first time I have seen this approach of limiting the responsibility of someone breaking the law to two years.

I would like to know if my colleague also thinks that this is the first time we are seeing this type of approach and if he believes that it is tough enough to protect the children victimized by these sites.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, I must once again remind my fellow member, who sits on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and whom I respect a great deal despite the fact that we do not belong to the same political party, that practically the only offence identified in the bill is when a service provider is informed that it is hosting a child pornography website and that service provider fails to report the site to the organization that will be created and also fails to preserve the data. We are talking about 21 days. It should be fairly quick to determine whether or not the ISP has preserved the data. The bill has to set out a few offences, but they are not serious ones. This makes it possible for private citizens to work with service providers who we hope are responsible enough to report this type of situation to the police. That is about it. As for the rest, there is still the obligation of confidentiality and immunity from prosecution.

The purpose of the bill is to set out the method by which action can be taken against websites. The bill is not designed to punish those who set up child pornography websites. If it were, the limitation period would certainly need to be much longer.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I must inform the hon. member that he will have three minutes for questions and comments when the House resumes consideration of this bill.

The House resumed from November 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing Act
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment to the third reading stage of Bill C-304 under private members' business.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #131

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

(Bill referred to a committee)