House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offence.

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The House resumed from November 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, be read the third time and passed.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-22 at third reading.

As always, it is important that we recognize the support for the bill, throughout many years actually. All parties are supportive of the bill, so it clearly will go through. With the opportunity we have for the short amount of debate we will have on it, probably finishing today, we need to set, in context, how it has come to be this far into the process, why it has taken so long and the usefulness of the procedures that we mandate will have.

There is a big component here, I would hope, both in this debate, as Canadians listen to it and have up to this point, and on an ongoing basis, and that is the public educational aspect to the bill. If it is to be useful, we need greater co-operation from individuals who use the Internet on a regular basis.

To set the context, the bill requires companies that provide servers for the Internet to report what they consider to be child pornography to a specific agency, yet to be established. It will be identified and all service providers will be made aware of the agency. That is the first element.

Second, companies will have to report to the agency and if they are then, either by the agency or by a police forces, advised that they believe it is child pornography and that an investigation will take place, they will have to retain the material for a 21 day period. That will give police and prosecutors sufficient time to get a warrant to access the data and to trace back this material to its source. Our prosecutors need the 21 days to get a judicial warrant to get access to that information.

The bill is essentially about that.

To set it in its context of why this is so important, the first thing I would point out is an NDP member had a private member's bill dealing with these aspects, and a couple more, way back in the late 1990s. The subsequent Liberal governments did nothing to move on this, and I think I am accurate in that. If they did, they introduced a bill really late, in 2004, 2005. The Conservative government picked it up in 2006, but we are now in almost 2011. In fact, this clearly will not likely become law until 2011 by the time it gets through the Senate and royal assent. That is a full five years.

What has happened in that period of time is more children have been abused. Our police officers, prosecutors and judges have all been hamstrung, to a significant degree, in dealing with child pornography on the Internet because they have not had these tools. In that period of time, as much as the justice minister in particular and the Prime Minister stand regularly in the House and in public and accuse the opposition parties of slowing down bills, this one included, the reality is the government went to an election. Even though it said it would go to a fixed date election, it broke that promise and stalled the bill. We had two prorogations and both times this bill or its predecessors were stalled as well. In effect we have lost a full five years when we could have had this law. In fact, we should have had it as much as 10 years ago, and that is a real shame.

In terms of the ability of our police forces in particular, the bill would allow our police enforcement agencies to get at this material.

It is important to understand something else that happened in Canada. Paul Gillespie, a police officer in Toronto, was trying to deal with child pornography and child sexual abuse generally. He became really frustrated by the lack of technology. On his own initiative, and he is really a Canadian hero in this regard, he sent a letter to Bill Gates of Microsoft and said that police officers needed help, that they could not trace the material, which has exploded on the Internet.

We have always had child pornography. We could go back to ancient Greece, ancient Egypt and find child pornography. However, with the advent of the Internet and easy access by billions of people around the Globe, child pornographers put this material on to the Internet in huge volume.

Paul Gillespie found that the police could not trace this material back. Most of this material does not come out of Canada. A chunk of it comes out of the United States, and we can disagree on how much, and a large chunk of it comes out of eastern Europe and parts of Asia. Mr. Gillespie was trying to trace this back to the source, but this material, at times, will go through as many as 50 different servers.

He said to Bill Gates that the police did not have the technology to trace this back, that there were all kinds of walls built into the Internet that the police could not break through and he asked for help. To their great credit, Mr. Gates and his corporation provided resources to the tune of about $10 million in both actual dollars and in his staff. They built a software program with which we are now able to trace back, quite successfully, this material to its very source.

We have the problem, and I will be quite frank on this. When we have traced it back to various countries, there is no ability or, in some cases, no willingness on their part to shut these servers down and to prosecute the people who put it up originally. That is an ongoing problem. We need international co-operation. However, Canada has now become known as the country that developed, with the help of Mr. Gates and his company, the technology to trace it back.

Back to the bill and why it is so important. The service providers now have a legislated mandate that if they identify child pornography, they pass that information on to the new agency that will be created. One of the agencies we believe will be in competition for this role is the Cybertip.ca in Manitoba. Cybertip.ca was modelled after a program that started in the U.K. A centre was established in Winnipeg that regularly searches the Internet to try to find these sources and then passes that on to police agencies to try to track it down. I believe the federal funding for Cybertip.ca came in 2004, 2005 under the then Liberal government. I remember at the time criticizing the government for not giving it enough money.

We heard from the members of Cybertip.ca. They testified before the committee on this bill. They acknowledged that there was a good deal of additional work they would like to do to identify and trace this material and help the police in that regard.

Essentially people call Cybertip.ca to say that they have found a site with child pornography. Cybertip.ca then looks at it and identifies it to determine if it is prosecutable. It is passed on to the Canadian police forces that then pass it on to international ones.

Cybertip.ca has been very successful, but again, it is not properly funded. There is a lot of work it would like to do. When the director came to committee, she made it quite clear that it could easily double its work force to cope with that huge volume of child pornography on the Internet.

This is one of the potential agencies that may be identified under the regulations of the legislation as the agency to report to. I expect there may be other agencies that would bid in once the criteria and mandate for the agency is set up under the regulations.

This is a very positive development in terms of fighting child pornography. There is not an individual in the House, and very few Canadians, who are not totally revolted by this material. In a previous bill that dealt with the issue of child luring, some material was shown to the committee in camera. I have also had exposure to this through my practice while doing some criminal work. It is absolutely revolting to see, especially when it is very young children, babies who cannot even walk yet, involved with adults sexually abusing them.

It is absolutely crucial that we move on this. I am very critical of the current government and the previous government that it has taken us this long to get to this stage.

Our police officers can significantly move forward because of the ability to now gather this material through the service providers. They see, as much as everybody else does, that they will have an effect. There will be a greater number of people reporting on the existence of this material and where it exists. A secondary part of this bill will be the ability to get a quick search warrant to access the address. Through the website, which would already have been identified, they will be able to trace it back because of the software program developed through Microsoft. This will make it much more effective in fighting this scourge.

We cannot downplay the huge volume. It is speculated that not only child pornography but pornography overall takes up as much as 50% of all the material that is on the Internet internationally, and child pornography forms a significant part of that.

When the bill is passed, the government and the country will be able to move very dramatically. We will continue to take a leadership role on this. That leadership role is recognized internationally. At the international level, we need to continue to press other governments that have not been willing, or that may not have the capacity to go after these service providers to get to the sites from where the child pornography comes. We have to be as forceful as we can.

The estimate I have seen, and this is reasonably accurate, is less than 1% or 2% of this material is produced in Canada because of some previous legislation we passed and because of the technology Microsoft developed for us. Since that technology came online, it has been available to people like Mr. Gillespie. I refer to him as Mr. Gillespie because he has left the police force and has set up a non-profit agency to continue to fight child pornography.

From the time that technology became available, we have identified a few sites in Canada where child pornography is produced and we have shut them down.

In terms of advocating at the international level, we need to pressure governments, particularly in eastern Europe and Asia, to be more proactive at investigating these sites in their countries, shutting them down and prosecuting the producers.

A significant element has developed, again mostly out of eastern Europe and Asia, of organized crime producing this material and making millions if not billions of dollars off it. In all cases we are seeing children, sometimes at a very young age being abused because of the pornographers.

I want to mention a couple of concerns that I have about the legislation, and I would urge the government to monitor this.

One of the provisions in the legislation is that, if the service providers do not comply with those two responsibilities, one, to report when they identify it and, two, to save the material for that 21-day period, they can be prosecuted.

I must say that the penalties contained in the bill seem to be quite mild when compared with other penalties that the government has imposed in the child pornography area. There seems to be some deference on the part of the government because these are corporate criminals. I have some difficulty with that and we will have to monitor it.

The other problem with it is that I do not understand the rationale behind this. The government put a maximum, a two-year limit, on the time when providers can be charged. It is certainly not beyond the pale that we would identify a number of service providers after two years who knew this type of material was on their sites and did not report it, or they did report it but did not keep the material.

In the secondary case, we will know and we will be able to charge them within that two-year time limit. But for those service providers who identify material and do not report it, it is quite conceivable, almost a certainty I would think, that we will find that some of them have done it for more than two years and we will not be able to prosecute them. I heard no argument from the government as to why it picked the arbitrary period of two years. Other sections in the Criminal Code do not have a two-year time limit in terms of the right to prosecute.

I raised another concern when I spoke to this bill at second reading, and that was that small service providers would not be able to comply. I just want to assure the House and Canadians generally that they are a small percentage of the overall market. The large service providers take up as much as 90% to 95% of the market.

We asked the association representing small service providers to attend committee and tell us if it had any concerns about the bill. The association said there was no need for it to appear because it was satisfied that small service providers could comply with the law. That has been taken care of, as far as we can tell.

This is a very good bill, with the exception of our one concern over the length of time to charge and prosecute. We will have to monitor that.

It is clear, from the evidence we heard on the bill and on other legislation we worked on with regard to child pornography and child sexual abuse more generally, that we have a responsibility because of the leadership role we have taken up to this point. Slow as it has been on some occasions, we are still further ahead than a lot of other countries. We have to continue at the international level to press governments to build a capacity to fight this scourge and, if they do identify it, have the political will to prosecute vigorously to shut the sites down and prosecute the producers of the material.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the minister has announced that she will be putting $42 million more toward police efforts to essentially play cat and mouse with a bunch of criminals who will simply move to a different jurisdiction.

The question has been raised as to whether or not the government has looked at best practices in other jurisdictions. For example, Sweden evidently just simply blocks pornography sites, as does Germany. Other countries have other types of rules.

If we have that as an option, if we can simply block it, why do we not just stop torturing ourselves and spending all sorts of taxpayers' money chasing these people, when the odds are against our catching them in the first place because they move between sites and between countries. Why would we not simply block the sites if that option is available?

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a very good question. I cannot say that it came up much in the discussion on this bill. On a prior bill, again dealing with child luring over the Internet, in particular, there was discussion of that.

The only answer that I have had of any merit, and I do not want to sound as if I am defending the government's position, was again the problem of identifying the sites. We obviously cannot block them unless we know where they are. So, this bill would move forward on that. I would hope, based on all of the indications we have and what is happening in countries like Sweden, that we would move to that.

In that regard, I would like to just take another minute. I did a lot of work on public safety for a period of time. Within our CSE agency, we have some very advanced technology. If this were shared with our police forces, we would be able to do this blocking as effectively as any government that I have been able to identify, including the United States. We have technology, sort of in our spy agencies, that is as effective as any. The Chinese may be ahead of us on this because they are doing a great deal of blocking in China right now. However, we have the technology in Canada and we can do the blocking.

As I said, though, we would have to make that available, from our spy agencies and those services, to our regular police forces.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my second question deals with the issue of offences.

For example, in the case of individuals, we are talking about $1,000 for a first offence, $5,000 for a second offence and a maximum of $10,000 or six months for a third offence. For corporations, we are talking about $10,000 for the first offence, $50,000 for the second offence and $100,000 for the third offence.

I would expect that at the end of the day, if we strip away the veils, we would find that these pornographic sites are largely owned and run by criminal enterprises. I wonder whether or not these fines would be high enough, because they could be seen by criminal organizations as nothing more than the cost of doing business. They do not seem high enough to stop people who are making millions of dollars on these types of sites.

I would like to ask the member what he personally thinks about that. I recognize that we can always increase them in the future if, after a certain period of time, we find out that they are not high enough. However, it just seemed to me at the beginning that, if we are dealing with organized crime, perhaps these would not be high enough penalities here.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think we have to be careful in recognizing who those fines would be applied against, because we have other laws that can do that. They would not be applied against people who are producing the child pornography. They are obviously the ones we want to get at.

These fines would apply to individuals or companies who are service providers who have not co-operated and have not submitted, in effect, to the requirements of this legislation.

This goes back to the point I made earlier about my concern over the limit of two years. If we have a large corporation that provides a large amount of the service in this country that consistently has not complied with the legislation and we identify that, we could find ourselves only identifying it after the two-year period and not being able to prosecute.

If it is within the two-year period, but they have consistently done this and we finally identify that, it seems to me the fines would be too low, in that setting. What we would want is some relationship to the amount of revenue they have generated from those sites during that period of time before we got a chance to shut them down. That would be a more appropriate system for fining them.

However, with regard to organized crime and the other individuals or small groups who are producing this material, we have other penalties for them, most of which include fairly substantial periods of incarceration.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I did pay attention to the member's concern about the two-year limit not being long enough.

I would ask the member to explain that a little further. When we looked into this whole issue, we found that Canada was a large producer and host of this type of activity, with 9% of the worldwide number of sites. As a matter of fact, the United States was the largest at 49% of the total sites. Russia had 20%, Japan had 4.3% and South Korea had 3.6%.

We recognize that when efforts are being made to stamp these sites out, they will simply move on to other jurisdictions. This is a long-term effort here that is going to have be waged by jurisdictions. It just seems to me that we should be looking at best practices. We should be looking at the Swedish situation.

I do not know whether anyone at committee dealt with that particular issue. I would ask the member to deal with the issue of two-year limits and also the question of whether or not any witnesses were brought in who could give us some inside information about how the system is working in Sweden and other countries, including China.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, with regard to best practices elsewhere, no witnesses were called on this bill in this regard because we see this bill as one that transits us as a society into those next steps, which hopefully will be coming. We have had some of that evidence on previous bills.

With regard to the time limit, I have looked at some other jurisdictions and no one else has placed this time limit on it. I really could not understand the position. It was almost to the point of asking the government to take it out and let the general time limits in the code apply. I have had no sense from the government that it was prepared to make any compromise and withdraw this section, or if not withdraw it, then extend the period of time when prosecution could be brought against the service providers if they breached the legislation.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, back in June 2008 when I was in the Manitoba legislature we dealt with whole issue of Cybertip.ca.

At that time it seemed to have been a good idea. We supported it. I think the history of Cybertip.ca has been rather positive. The member is actually fairly knowledgeable in this area, so I would ask him to give us an update on that.

It is interesting that we have gotten more answers out of this member today than we have been able to get from any government member on this issue throughout the entire debate. As a matter of fact, we rarely see any government—

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh has the floor for a very brief response.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, Cybertip.ca is an excellent agency. It is very committed to the work its doing.

Again, as I said in my speech, the director who was here and gave evidence made it very clear that it could be doing a heck of a lot more. There is public education it would like to do. That is why it needs the additional resources.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is the House ready for the question?

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
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10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.