House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was child.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

June 16th, 2010 / 3:45 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

moved that Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, be read the third time and passed.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is always valuable, when we are discussing any legislation before the House of Commons, to inquire as to its origins. If I am permitted, I will expound upon the origins of the fairness for military families act.

Some time ago, I was knocking on doors in the south Ottawa village community of Osgoode. I ended up on the doorstep of a Canadian soldier, Mr. Duquette, who, along with his wife, was just heading out on a date, only to be interrupted by a visiting member of Parliament. He told me the story of his service to the Canadian Forces in the Golan Heights. He served there for roughly a year. When he went into service, he left behind a four-day-old child to whom his wife had just given birth. Only one day after they were able to bring their young boy home, he was sent by order into the field on our behalf.

One of the things that helped him get through this time away from his family was the notion that he would take advantage of his rightful benefits under employment insurance for parental benefits. He, like all members of the Canadian Forces, pay into the employment insurance system and, thus, have every expectation that they should be able to draw parental leave just like the rest of us.

When he returned, he was startled and deeply disappointed to learn that he would not be able to spend time with his son because the eligibility period, during which people can collect their parental benefits, had expired. It lasts only for the year immediately following the birth or adoption of the child. Given that this soldier had been serving us overseas for over a year, that entire period of eligibility had gone by and, sadly, he would not be afforded the benefit for which he had been paying for many years.

He opened up the act to find out if it could really be true and, not only did he learn that it was as bad as it sounded, he also learned that it was even worse. He found that criminals who are serving prison sentences are able to defer their benefits until after they get out of jail, but soldiers who are serving our country on order from their government cannot.

I told him that I would work hard with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Human Resources to fix the injustice and I have been doing that for some time now. I am very thankful that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Human Resources agreed with me and with the Duquette family and introduced in this House the fairness for military families act in order to redress this injustice and allow soldiers to defer their parental benefits until after they get home from service.

This bill would have an impact on countless soldiers who serve us and put themselves in harm's way even though they have small children waiting for them back at home. It is a sacrifice that not only the soldier makes, but a sacrifice made by the entire family. The fairness for military families act recognizes that sacrifice and would help soldiers to acquire the benefits for which they paid.

When the bill first came through the House of Commons it was passed rather quickly and then went to the human resources committee to be studied further. We invited the Duquette family to testify.

The one logistical problem that all members in the committee will recall vividly was that Mr. Duquette was and is still serving us in Kabul, Afghanistan, so he could not be at the committee in person. His wife, who is still here in Osgoode, came downtown and testified in person and he by teleconference from around the world. It was the first time they had seen each other in months and it was a real delight to see their faces light up when, via teleconference in a parliamentary committee room, they were able to connect.

I was also heartened, as a parliamentarian, to see members of all parties come together in a spirit of non-partisanship to do the right thing and support the Duquette family and the thousands of military families just like them. Not only did we have a great session hearing from the family, understanding their concerns and the trials and tribulations of families that sacrifice so much and do so much good, but we, as a parliamentary committee, unanimously passed the bill and sent it back to the House of Commons in just one meeting. That illustrates the power of all parliamentarians to work together and get things done for our citizens, our families and our soldiers.

On behalf of my constituents, I commend members of all parties who participated in making this happen. It has been a real honour to work on behalf of this family and to partner with parliamentarians of every colour in order to get the job done.

I understand that we are getting close to the day when this bill will pass through the House of Commons. I would encourage all members to keep up the very effective work they have been doing to move it forward. I will be encouraging our friends in the other place, the Senate, to move with equal haste so that this bill can become law and families can begin to benefit from the fairness that they deserve and for which they have paid.

We have a duty to all of our citizens but perhaps a special duty to ensure that the soldiers who are protecting all of us get the benefits that they deserve. It has been my honour to play a small role in making that happen.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-13 on the last part of its voyage through Parliament, the so-called fairness for military families act.

The proposed act will amend part I of the Employment Insurance Act to extend the period during which employment insurance parental benefits may be paid for Canadian Forces members whose start date of parental leave is deferred or who are directed to return to duty from parental leave.

This act will help relatively few Canadians. We are told by the department that it would be about 50 to 60 people a year at a cost of about $600,000. Nonetheless it is important for those who it will assist, and it assists Canadians that we all agree are entirely worthy of that assistance.

As my colleague, the parliamentary secretary referred to, at committee we heard from Lieutenant-Colonel James Duquette, who was posted to the Golan Heights just four days after the birth of his first child. As such, he missed his opportunity to take parental leave. It was very nice to hear from him, from Kabul, and his wife, Anne, who testified as well. They made very compelling witnesses in support of the bill.

There is a curious factor, though, which is the timeline of the bill. On April 5, the government had a press release about Bill C-13, indicating it would introduce it. On April 12, the legislation was introduced and then it was almost a month before it was debated in the House. It was very quickly passed by the House and went to committee. It was not until May 26 when the human resources committee had this testimony, went through clause-by-clause and everything passed. It is now another month since it came back to the House. I do not know if it would have even come to the House this week if the Liberal Party had not inquired about its status.

As the parliamentary secretary suggested, all parties support it. Therefore, it makes sense to get this through. It has been kind of a case of hurry up and wait and hurry up and wait on the bill. It is important.

I can talk from a personal point of view. I come from a military area, Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. It is home to many serving members of the Canadian Forces and many more veterans. I think we have one of the highest populations of veterans in Canada.

It was not very long ago that I attended the funeral for Petty Officer Second Class Craig Blake, who was the 143rd Canadian killed in Afghanistan. He was killed in the Panjwai District in Afghanistan. He was a member of the Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic. He was diffusing IEDs when he lost his life. He has a wife and two sons. He was a hockey coach. He was remembered at his funeral for the wonderful community work he took part in and the great loss it was to his family.

I remember having a connection to one of the earliest deaths in Afghanistan, and that was Corporal Paul Davis who died in March 2006. I have spoken in the House before about flying home from Parliament on a Friday with a number of other parliamentarians. When we arrived in Halifax and turned on our Blackberrys, we heard the awful news that Corporal Paul Davis had been killed in Afghanistan. His father, Jim Davis, is a dear friend of mine and has been an eloquent and passionate spokesperson on behalf of military families who have lost loved ones.

I have many constituents who have served in Afghanistan and have come home. Even if they have come home relatively unscathed from their service in Afghanistan, their families have paid a very significant price. They make great sacrifices. To go months without seeing their family is a very difficult thing, even if they return home safely.

Most of us who sit in this place travel from somewhere else in Canada and we find it difficult, especially with young families as in my case. It is difficult to be away for chunks of life. It is very difficult for military families to be away for months at a time, as in the case with Lieutenant-Colonel Duquette and others, especially around the time of the birth of a child or shortly after. It makes no sense that we should compound the sacrifice of that family by not allowing those families to have parental leave.

The bill will make a difference for those families. I think it could have been stronger. We appreciate the amendment that the government promised us. I spoke to this when it first came to the House and indicated that we should ensure we covered as many military families as possible. The government, through the parliamentary secretary, indicated that the government would do that and it would ensure that amendment would be in place.

Others serving abroad could have been included in the bill. With the cost of the bill being only about half a million dollars a year, it would not have been very much to add others, for example, those in police forces who serve overseas.

When Lieutenant-Colonel Duquette appeared from Kabul via video conference at committee, he was asked a question by an opposition member about police and RCMP. The question was “Should we be amending this bill, in your view, to include those people as well?” In his answer, Lieutenant-Colonel Duquette said, “Yes, I definitely think that applying it to police serving internationally would be very important”.

Even departmental officials indicated at that same committee that this would not have been such a terrible hardship. I asked Mr. Louis Beauséjour, a fine bureaucrat in the Department of HRSDC, “How much of a problem would it be to have this bill apply to other personnel beyond serving members of the Canadian Forces?” His answer was, “There was no reason other than to determine what the underlying reason for the amendment was”.

We could have amended the bill. It could have been a much stronger bill, but nonetheless it is what it is. It will assist a certain number of military families. I want to indicate my appreciation to the parliamentary secretary and to the government for providing the amendment that is part of the bill today.

When we look at employment insurance, we need to look at the big picture. This has been a topic of much debate in the House and across Canada in the last couple of years.

Our social infrastructure is not suitably designed for the kind of recession that Canada has undergone in the last couple of years. After the economic update of 2008, there was an outcry from people across the country saying that we needed to provide support to people who needed help the most. Among the most vulnerable people were those who had lost their jobs and those who would lose their job. At that point in time, the recession was just taking hold and the government was very slow to act.

Then the issue of stimulus came up over Christmas and January 2009, and the new budget came in January 2009. Everybody assumed that the government would seriously address the issue of employment insurance, that it would look at, particularly, the issue of access to EI and the fact that many people simply did not have access depending on where they lived across the country. Access could be denied in a lot of cases. Quite often it is denied to women who have lost their job because they tend to work part-time hours and may not have enough hours to qualify.

When the government brought in its plans for employment insurance in the budget of early 2009, it did not address that issue at all. That brought cries of protest not only from who we might expect would be opposed to its inaction, such as labour unions and public policy people, but from people in just about every province, including provinces that were led by spokespeople like Premier Brad Wall, Premier Gordon Campbell and Premier Dalton McGuinty. All of them said that one of the gaps in the employment insurance system was the issue of access. Still we had no action from the government.

At one point in time, 1.6 million people were unemployed and almost half of those people had no access to employment insurance.

Changes have been made to the EI system over the years and some of those changes have been made by varying governments, but they have always reflected the fact that employment insurance should be there for those who most need it. A lot could have been done.

Bill C-13 to me is a very worthy improvement to EI. All parties have indicated their support for the bill. We need to do all we can to support military families, to recognize they have a particular burden, that those who serve and the families that serve those who serve make a special and significant sacrifice on a regular basis. The bill will do something to alleviate that. It is a limited bill and it could have been made better. It has been made a bit better but more could have been done. Nonetheless, I want to assure the Liberal Party's support for the bill. It is a worthy initiative and a recognition for those who serve our country valiantly.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to support Bill C-13, to create fairness for families with respect to parental leave. As my colleagues have already stated, this bill will extend the eligibility period for parental leave for members of the Canadian Forces who are called back to duty while on parental leave. They will be able to complete this leave when they return from duty.

The bill indicates that the period during which the member may benefit from this right shall be 50 weeks. We suggested that these 50 weeks be retroactive for members who have already been called back to duty while on parental leave. The government agreed to make this amendment to the bill. I note that it was done today and that is a very good thing.

I also share the opinion of the member who just spoke that this is another example of a piecemeal bill. It targets one set of improvements to be made to the employment insurance system, which should really be overhauled.

We will support Bill C-13. It is a question of fairness, especially since we are asking our Canadian Forces to risk their lives in situations that are not only difficult but dangerous. The Bloc has the greatest respect for members of the military and as parliamentarians, we have the responsibility to not impose additional risks on them.

Furthermore, we must provide the best possible accommodation between their career and their family life, and we must ensure that their return to the country is facilitated by measures that help with their integration in civil society.

I make this distinction because we believe this bill should have been more comprehensive in terms of the reality of the military. Although this measure is necessary, the Conservatives are continuing their bad habit of making piecemeal changes rather than undertaking genuine reform of employment insurance and real reform to support the military. A good number of members return home traumatized and suffering from post-traumatic stress, elements that have not been addressed by this bill.

I would also remind the House that members of the Canadian Forces pay employment insurance premiums just like any other worker. They are therefore insurable.

It is only fair that they be entitled since they already pay for this coverage. However, they did not have full access to it because of their job. That said, I think the point needs to be made that there is a whole other dimension of the reality faced by our military that is not covered.

The current government makes much of the contribution of Canadian armed forces to various military interventions, but what about its responsibilities when some members return damaged by their experiences, suffering from physical injuries and trauma?

They are less inclined to talk about the increased suicide rate among armed forces members who return to civilian life and the incredible lack of the psychological and financial support they need.

I would like to remind the House that the armed forces should provide adequate follow-up of its members who return from a mission such as that in Afghanistan, especially since we know that 4% of soldiers returning from Kandahar develop suicidal tendencies, 4.6% have symptoms of major depression, and more than 15% experience mental health problems.

In the course of its parliamentary work, the Bloc Québécois has always been concerned with support for veterans, all those who have proudly donned the uniform.

We circulated a petition that will be presented to the House of Commons. It is asking the House to change, among other things, the way military personnel are treated financially after leaving the armed forces.

In 2005, the House of Commons passed a Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, commonly called the Veterans' Charter, which came into force on April 6, 2006.

Since then, National Defence no longer provides lifetime monthly pensions for its soldiers. Instead, it introduced a lump sum payment in 2006. For every injury, there is a corresponding indemnity, up to a maximum. The amount is paid once, and the armed forces member is left to figure out on his own how to handle the money.

In January 2010, the Canadian Forces veterans ombudsman was very critical of this new system for compensating soldiers injured in service. Since stopping lifetime pensions, the forces have been providing veterans with a lot less money and failing to meet their needs.

The ombudsman said that he was not a proponent of the lump sum payment because someone with psychological issues could spend it unwisely and not have a single cent to put towards their financial security. The ombudsman, a veteran of Bosnia and Afghanistan himself, added that veterans can quite easily become homeless, and this sometimes happens. Many of them lose their way because of mental health problems. He says the only way to force them to maintain a residence is to send their compensation in monthly installments by mail, as used to be the case.

We cannot remain indifferent to these observations of the Canadian Forces ombudsman.

This new way of compensating our soldiers causes them, and often their family, to quickly become financially disadvantaged for the reasons outlined by the ombudsman.

In closing, I want to reiterate that the Bloc is voting in favour of Bill C-13 with the amendment. We truly hope that when we return in the fall we can present legislative measures to help soldiers who return from combat with injuries by giving them better financial support.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-13 on behalf of my party.

I want to say at the outset that the military looks for young people as recruits. It is not looking for older people my age. The military attracts and advertises to a younger group of people who are not really joining for the benefits and who do not necessarily understand what they are getting into, at the end of the day. They may think, perhaps wrongly, that they are going to be taken care of if they fulfill their mission and something befalls them in the process.

Therefore, I think it is a positive sign, unlike in World War I and World War II, when we had cases of post traumatic stress and suicide and these issues tended to be ignored, covered up, and downplayed as signs of weakness on the part of individuals.

In today's environment, certainly since the end of the gulf war, we are seeing more interest in post-traumatic stress disorder issues. It is definitely something we have to look at. The military personnel have to be made aware that we are prepared to look after them a little more than we have in the past.

I have a 23-year-old son in the reserves. As a matter of fact, he moved to Kingston on June 1, and he will be going to Afghanistan in November. He is not concerned about these issues, even though he is aware of the statistics and so on. People in his position are not necessarily preoccupied with what could possibly happen.

However, those of us who have been around for a while know historically that there is a certain percentage of people who will develop problems in a war environment. Therefore, we have to prepare ourselves to take care of those instances.

I know that the Bloc member who just spoke gave some statistics. About 4% of soldiers have suicidal tendencies when they come back from Kandahar, and 15% have mental health issues. The member wants us to look at perhaps a more comprehensive approach to the EI program.

Since the employment insurance system was set up in the 1940s, we have seen a positive progression of the system to the point where, in the 1970s, the system was very open, and many people were able to take advantage of it. However, it was curtailed and cut back somewhat in the last number of years. We saw for the first time, I believe it was the first time, a sitting government take money, take the surpluses from the EI system and use them to pay down the deficit. We saw that to the tune of $57 billion.

One might ask what is wrong with that. The answer is that the money does not belong to the government. It is money that is raised from the workers themselves and that is matched by the companies that employ them. Therefore, it is not right for the government to be using that money essentially as a source of revenue to pay down the debt of the country. It is essentially robbing the workers and the employers of these contributions.

Now that we have gone through a very large recession over the last year, it has become clear that there are some problems with employment insurance that need to be fixed. We have seen some measures on the part of the government. Last year, $1 billion, which was agreed to by the government and the NDP, funded measures for self-employed people under Bill C-56.

We have had several bills introduced in the House. The question is why we are doing this in a piecemeal fashion. It is not dissimilar to the crime agenda of the government. Rather than introducing those bills on a one-off basis, in a boutique sort of fashion, we asked why the government did not, as it did for the budget implementation bill, which by the way we did not agree with, simply put all these changes in an omnibus bill, bring it to Parliament, and make up for 100 years of inaction on much-needed reforms in the Criminal Code. The same approach should happen here.

We should deal with all these issues in one big bill. The bill is, of course, being supported unanimously in the House. However, my friend, the member for Winnipeg Centre, pointed out initially, when the bill was introduced, that this was something that probably could have been done simply through an administrative measure, perhaps through an order in council.

It affects perhaps 50 to 60 soldiers a year. The cost of the program is around $500,000 to $600,000 a year. Basically, it amends the Employment Insurance Act to extend the benefit period, the period of duration of parental benefits, for Canadian Forces members whose period of parental leave is deferred or who are directed to return to duty from parental leave. That was an oversight in our system in the past. The Conservative member who introduced the bill was certainly attentive to that missing part, so he introduced this bill. It is very positive from his point of view.

Our critic, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, brought in an amendment. We thought it was a good suggestion, and we still do, that would allow the bill to apply to the RCMP and police forces, because there are several members from the police forces and the RCMP who travel with our regular forces and our reserves when they go into theatre. There are also some who are in Haiti at the moment. We feel that they should be covered under the bill as well. The Liberal members also seem to be agreeable to that. For whatever reason, at committee, that particular amendment was not adopted. I am really not sure why that would have been a problem. Nevertheless, it was not adopted.

The fact of the matter is that it is time for us to sit back. We have to proceed, obviously, and pass the bill today, but we have to have the government, or a new government, at some point in time, do a comprehensive study. It should not be one that takes a decade, but at least do a comprehensive study of the EI program. Get input from all of the interested parties. Bring in a comprehensive approach to EI so that we can get away from this piecemeal approach to EI reform, which is basically predicated on the basis of what sort of press conference or press coverage we can get on a limited measure on a certain day. That is not what the public of the country sent us here to do. That is not the way they want us to approach the legislative agenda of the country. They want to see a comprehensive plan for EI. They want to see a comprehensive plan for other sectors of our country as well.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to an order made earlier today, Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, is deemed read a third time and passed.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from June 15 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 second time and referred to a committee.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, or the protecting children from online sexual exploitation act, brings back to life a bill that was killed in the last session when the government prorogued Parliament. It may be a tired line to hear from me or from members over here but the fact is that the former bill, Bill C-58, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, received first reading on May 6.

In short, the bill would make reporting child sexual abuse images mandatory for all Canadians, including Internet service providers, or ISPs. The tragedy here, of course, is that every day that goes by, more of these offences take place. It is a scourge on our society and we probably could have done something earlier but the P word stood in front of that. There was prorogation and the bill was not passed.

As the parliamentary secretary noted yesterday, government has an obligation to protect the weak and vulnerable in society, particularly our children. Debate on this bill is long overdue and I am honoured to speak in support of legislation that seeks to defend the rights of children in Canada and around the world.

While this bill is technical in nature, its purpose is a moral and praiseworthy one that ought to have been adopted long ago. At committee, I know this bill will be examined closely before any final decisions are made, such that this House can ensure Canada no longer lags in its responsibilities to protect our children from sexual exploitation.

I have a number of statistics that I will get into at the finish of my speech but the preface for them is this. Canada does not lead in the prevention of child Internet pornography or sexual exploitation.

I would like to express, though, how troubled I am that it has taken the government so long to do something about this important topic. It has been almost four and a half years that it has been the government and legislation to update criminal laws so that they better reflect the modern technologies and modern conveyance of information, as bad as this is, has not been brought forward by the government in a timely fashion.

The victims of these crimes cannot wait and the government's tactics have deprived many children the free and happy lives they deserve. Many of us have children and many of us provide the best we can for them and think that we are providing for them a free and happy life. Sometimes I say to my children that they have too free and happy a life, but let us be clear. There are many children who are in captivity. Their freedom has been taken away and they do not live free and happy lives whatsoever. They are children who have been exploited and continue to be exploited every day.

To begin, I want to discuss the current legislation governing child pornography. There are sections in the Criminal Code that exist, particularly in 1993 when the Liberal government introduced section 163.1 of the Criminal Code which prohibited the production, distribution, sale and possession of child pornography.

Let us all think back to 1993 when we did not have Blackberrys, our portable computers were probably the size of this podium and technology was certainly not as advanced as it is today. Therefore, the act, while it was good at the time, is woefully inadequate. It described child pornography as:

the visual representation of explicit sexual activity with a person who is or who is depicted as being under the age of 18;

the visual representation, for sexual purposes, of persons under the age of 18; or

any written material advocating or counselling sexual activity with a person under the age of 18.

That was all very good to have been introduced in 1993.

Canadians have a clear understanding of the illegality that is child pornography. At present, it is a criminal offence if one makes available distribution of child pornography, as I just defined, online. This is very straightforward and Canada continues to condemn the production and accessibility of online material depicting the sexual exploitation of children.

If society stopped there, if modern technology stopped there, if it were just a matter of stopping the production of child pornography and distribution of it online, I suppose we would be doing our job. Maybe there are some members who have been here since 1993 and remember, probably with some pride, that that was adequate at the time.

Under our present laws, if there are reasonable grounds to believe that child pornography is accessible through an Internet service provider, a judge may order the provider to supply the information to aid in locating and identifying the person who posted it. Judges may also order the removal of the child pornography if its source can be identified.

These laws are both valuable and necessary, though, as I will highlight later, further action is needed on the part of the government. Right now, in cases involving the online sexual exploitation of children, a prosecutor may choose whether the accused should be charged with a serious indictable offence or be liable for the less serious summary conviction offence. Cases of this nature ending in indictable offences are punishable for up to 10 years in prison. They are very serious. Summary convictions are currently punishable up to 18 months.

Let us be clear that viewing or possessing child pornography is punishable as well. Distributing child pornography online is as illegal as viewing it and this is a punishable offence. A maximum five-year sentence exists for indictable offences, while a maximum of 18 months remains for summary convictions.

Needless to say, Canadians are well aware of the horrible continuation of child pornography around the world and they want to bring it to an end. They do not want Canada to be laggards. They do not want Canada to be behind. They want Canada to be ahead on this issue but we are not. Canada's current legislation clearly hands down harsh consequences for those who break the law regarding the online sexual exploitation of children but more must be done to prevent these awful crimes.

As I briefly mentioned, Bill C-22 would implement rules that would require Internet service providers to report images of child sexual abuse. This measure is a welcome change if Canada is to directly combat the rise in Internet pornography exploiting children. The legislation reads:

This enactment imposes reporting duties on persons who provide an Internet service to the public if they are advised of an Internet address where child pornography may be available to the public or if they have reasonable grounds to believe that their Internet service is being or has been used to commit a child pornography offence.

This is calling on the public, third parties and people on the outside to notify the ISP that they have knowledge of child pornography on sites. Think of the ISP as the carriage or the distribution conduit for child Internet pornography. This is a good thing because I do not know if there is any one agency or one government in the whole world that can adequately survey, police, patrol or keep watch on everything that is happening on the Internet with respect to child Internet pornography or sexual exploitation.

Members of the public, third parties and the many interested groups across the country that are mobilized on this issue will be given the opportunity to report them to the ISPs, and now, because of this legislation, the ISP would have the duty to report.

I also want to highlight a couple of the clauses that are interesting and important in this bill. Clause 3 reads:

If a person is advised, in the course of providing an Internet service to the public, of an Internet Protocol address or a Uniform Resource Locator where child pornography may be available to the public, the person must report that address or Uniform Resource Locator to the organization designated by the regulations, as soon as feasible and in accordance with the regulations.

Clause 4 reads:

If a person who provides an Internet service to the public has reasonable grounds to believe that their Internet service is being or has been used to commit a child pornography offence, the person must notify an officer, constable or other person employed—

This is the addition. One would think that the notice would be given to a police officer. That is how the Criminal Code has been written for centuries. However, this act, written by the Department of Justice, continues on to read:

—for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace of that fact, as soon as feasible and in accordance with the regulations.

It widens the scope to whom the reporting can be done. In a clever way, it widens the scope of who can report and it narrows the scope of who is responsible, that is the ISP, and broadens the scope as to who should be informed.

We expect that persons employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace could include people under the municipalities act for bylaw enforcement. This could, under the person power of the municipalities act across this country, perhaps in an uninvaded territory and constitutional talk, give municipalities or regents the power to be firmer on issues of Internet child pornography distribution.

Clause 5 talks about a person who makes a notification under the previous clause must preserve all the data. Everybody knows that in a court of law we need to have the evidence. It is not good enough just to have a whole bunch of people watching or make the ISP basically liable to report and having the report done to a wider audience or a wider array of public police officers. The person reporting must also preserve the evidence, the electronic data, because without that there cannot be any convictions.

Clause 7 reads:

Nothing in this Act requires or authorizes a person to seek out child pornography.

In other words, the act stops in making ISPs or anybody under this act a peace officer for the purpose of investigating or going further than what is on the ISP or the URL.

Clauses 8 and 10 talk about some civil liability and some limits of liability that a civil proceeding cannot be commenced against a person for making a report in good faith, under clause 3. This goes to libel, defamation and slander.

We can see a good-natured citizen making a report of a site that is questionable. It is reported by the ISP to a peace officer but there is no conviction. However, during the course of this, maybe it leaks to the public that this is being done and it might harm someone's reputation. So, we can see a litigation chill effect that if this clause, the whole harmless clause, were not in this act maybe it would clamp down on the reporting, which would be against the purpose of the act.

In September 2008, federal and provincial ministers of justice and attorneys general, those responsible for justice in Canada, agreed that the federal legislation to establish mandatory reporting of online child pornography by Internet service providers was necessary. So, this has come from a long line of meetings with comparable justice ministers and attorneys general. It is a good step but one wonders why it was not done earlier.

We now have this legislation before the House that would apply to suppliers of the Internet to the public, those that provide electronic mail services, Internet hosting services and operators of social networking sites. There may be some concerns that the net is too wide but let us take it to committee and examine that and call in the Privacy Commissioner. Let us bring the major Internet service providers into the House of Commons committees and explain why it is not their job to report incidents of the production or the distribution of child Internet pornography. Why do we not do that? Why have we not done it sooner?

As I have demonstrated in the duties implied in Bill C-22, the legislation would require groups to report tips they receive regarding where child pornography may be available and notify police and safeguard evidence that is involved with the offence itself.

Those providers who do not comply, this is the penalty aspect, would be faced with offences of graduated fines. For individuals, the maximum first fine would be $1,000; for the second offence it would be $5,000; and for subsequent offences it would be $10,000. We must remember that these are for the reporting agencies. They are quasi-criminal, they are fines, they are structured very much like environmental offences and they are a good start.

I think at committee I might push for some criminal negligence provisions that might strengthen this act to make it even more deleterious for companies and their directors who knowingly and repeatedly fail to comply with the law, which I think is fairly reasonable.

As I stated when I first stood on this issue, child exploitation is a scourge on our community and action is long overdue. The delays because of prorogation and the delays because of other quasi-justice issues being put in the storefront first are inexcusable.

I will say, however, that all the proposed changes that I have just covered in detail, while unexamined yet by the committee, certainly appear to ensure the future safety of children and aim to eliminate the online sexual exploitation of minors. Evidence is clear that action on the part of the federal government is essential to address growing sexual exploitation of children.

The government has touted its whole law and order agenda, but it has taken four and a half years to get to this most egregious part of criminal activity, and one area of criminal activity that has seen an exponential growth and therefore an exponential increase in the harm to the community. The time to act is now.

In June 2008, waiting for federal direction and leadership, provinces took the lead. Manitoba, for instance, passed a law requiring all persons to report to Cybertip.ca any material that could constitute child pornography. Ontario has now followed Manitoba, waiting for the federal government to catch up by passing a similar law. In 2002 the United States adopted laws imposing reporting requirements on ISPs. In 2005 Australia passed laws for the same element. So, 2002, 2005, Manitoba and Ontario; we are not leading here in Parliament. The government is not leading on this issue; we are following. Taking action is evidently the right thing to do.

I would like to share some statistics with the House that convey the utter urgency with which we must protect our children from online sexual exploitation. Statistics Canada in reporting on child pornography said that clearly it is an increasing problem. There were 55 offences in 1998 and 10 years later, the number is 1,408; 55 offences as compared to 1,408.

Estimates from the federal ombudsman for the victims of crime, when we had one, would indicate there are over five million child sexual abuse images on the Internet. This is inexcusable for a country that is wealthy, inexcusable for a country that pretends to care about the rights of children, inexcusable for a government and a country that is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The crimes continue. Between 2002 and 2009, the aforementioned Cybertip.ca.ca analyzed that 57.4% of child pornography images were that of children eight years and under. Eighty-three per cent of the images were of girls. Thirty-five per cent of the images depicted severe sexual assault being inflicted on children.

The Internet, as I said before, is a difficult domain to govern; it is probably impossible, but we must make better efforts. Child pornography sites are hosted in roughly 60 countries, and the rankings are alarming.

We all have an idea how big Canada is in the world. We are a small country in population.

The country hosting the most child pornography sites is the United States, again a wealthy, northern, industrialized country that would seem, by all its political rhetoric, to care about its children. The United States hosts 49% of these websites. Forty-nine per cent of the world's child pornography sites are in the United States. Second is Russia with 20%. Remember that the United States is a very large country and a very wealthy country. Russia is a very large country.

Where would we expect Canada to sit in terms of its population, in the small ranking, let us pray? No. Canada hosts 9% of the child pornography sites in the world, and that is not a good statistic. That is why we have to pass this law. That is why it ought to have been passed sooner.

It is why the government has to do more about clamping down on Internet child pornography. It is a crime we all agree should be clamped down on. It is a crime about which we realize the government should do more. It is a crime that has so far been untended to by the communications industry, which is why I said all parties should be amenable to having all the ISPs, all the big names, say them, Google and others, in here. They should be defending why they have not done anything sooner, why they have not, on their own, cut back on their inherent knowledge, their implied knowledge, of the existence of child pornography Internet sites.

The figures are all from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Anybody who doubts the urgency of the issue should understand Canada must act immediately.

It is very difficult to determine where the images and websites are hosted, but they can be supported from different locations in the world. As such, oftentimes each photo and each site must be individually tracked, something highly difficult to achieve. Bill C-22 goes somewhere toward that, but more work must be done.

For one website depicting the sexual exploitation of children, Cybertip.ca.ca tracked it for 48 hours and the site went through 212 different Internet addresses in 16 countries. That was in two days. ISPs running the networks to which these computers are connected should be able to suspend service to those computers.

We need legislation to do that. That is not in this legislation. That is not even a justice issue. That is an issue on which the government with its various departments and ministers responsible should be concentrating.

In conclusion, it is important to note that the bill does not require anyone to seek out child pornography in an attempt to shut it down, although if an Internet service provider becomes aware and notifies the police that one exists, the provider will not be subject to civil proceedings, as I mentioned earlier.

Child sexual exploitation is one of the top three concerns regarding children and society. We must support this bill, but we must do more.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Before moving on to questions and comments, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, Forestry Industry; the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway, Justice; and the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, Arts and Culture.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit surprised that I am not being given a chance to give my speech. I was told that we would have 10 minutes for speeches, without a period for questions. But if there is a period for questions, I have a question for the member who just spoke.