Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-58, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service.
As we heard earlier today, the bill would force an Internet service provider to report an Internet protocol address or a uniform resource locator if the ISP, the Internet service provider, is aware that this address may be used for the purposes of committing a child pornography offence. It says that the ISP needs to report it as soon possible and that, following reporting, the ISP must preserve all computer data related to the notification for 21 days.
Criminal Code reform or any kind of reform dealing with law within the criminal realm, whether it is dealt with through regulations or civil law, calls for a fact based appraisal of the present situation, as well as a very careful assessment of whether proposed reforms will actually enhance the objectives of what we say is the realm of criminal law or the criminal justice system.
One needs to answer some very important questions, and there are three in particular that I will note: first, what are we trying to accomplish; second, are the proposed reforms likely to make our communities safer; and, third, do we actually need this legislative change?
I will begin with the first question. What are we trying to accomplish? This bill is trying to accomplish the protection of children from online sexual exploitation. This is very much a laudable goal. I would point out that this is something we stand behind and action on this issue in the House is a long time coming.
In fact, the NDP introduced a bill about Internet luring in 2006 in the 39th Parliament. My colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, introduced the bill. The purpose of that bill, which was then Bill C-214, was to prevent the use of the Internet to unlawfully promote, display, describe or facilitate participation in unlawful sexual activity involving young persons. That was in 2006 and I congratulate my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for introducing the bill and turning the attention of the House to this very important issue.
Here we are in 2009, on the doorstep of 2010, and this is the first time we are seeing a bill that would deal with Internet child pornography. I extend congratulations to the government for finally waking up to this serious issue, an issue that impacts the health and safety of all communities in Canada.
The next question I would like to address in our analysis of this bill is: Are the proposed reforms likely to make our communities safer? This is the crux of the issue and I believe the answer requires a bit of nuance thinking and real analysis.
First, let me be clear that action on child pornography is critical, and this cannot be stated enough. Child pornography is wrong, it is criminal and we must work to stop it. Is this the best way to approach Internet pornography? Is this the best way to stop the exploitation of children online? I believe there is some merit to this bill, no doubt, but I am really struck by what is not in the bill.
The bill states that Internet service providers must report to police when their addresses are being used for child pornography. However, I think we also need to consider how we will deal with ISPs that do not co-operate with this mandate. I think we can go further when it comes to the duty and onus that is placed on ISPs.
ISPs have the information. This is how investigative officers can get information about the identities of people who are involved in putting child pornography online. I look forward to hearing from witnesses at committee about this aspect of the bill. What can we do to put an additional onus on ISPs that do not co-operate? What other provisions can be put in place?
What is obviously missing from this bill are the resources. What does it mean to report child pornography when there are no resources, human, financial or structural, to do anything about it? I had a discussion earlier with my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue. There is a provision in the bill to deal with a scenario of an ISP reporting online child pornography and then after 21 days having to dispose of the information if it has not been asked to protect it by judicial order. I imagine that this will be the case very frequently, that the 21 day period will pass with very little, if any, action in most cases because our police officers do not have the resources to deal with online child pornography. They know it is out there. We all know it is out there.
In doing research for this speech, I learned not to put online child porn in a search engine because I was assaulted with the findings. Police know it is out there. Communities know it is out there. Parents know it is out there. How do we investigate it when there is only one person, at best, per station who is charged with the task of actually investigating online child porn?
The bill needs resources. It needs a task force of investigators, a task force that can develop expertise in investigating, in pursuing and in prosecuting.
Earlier this year, the University of Toronto, which has a Centre for Innovation Law and Policy, held a symposium on online child exploitation. David Butt, a trial lawyer in Toronto who was mentioned in the House earlier in the debate, spoke about the issue of child pornography investigations. I would like to read from the abstract of his presentation because it sums up some of the issues facing us when we are considering online child porn. In the abstract, he wrote:
Traditionally, prosecutors and police conducting internet child exploitation cases worked at the practical intersection of many different fields of expertise: law, child-oriented social work, pedophilia as a psychiatric phenomenon, and of course criminal investigations. The recent explosion of internet related child exploitation has obliged prosecutors and police to draw as well from various technological disciplines, international commerce, international relations, and a host of disciplines that examine the social impact of the emerging cyber-world. This is a daunting task for prosecutors and police, and illustrates well the radical change in the face of child exploitation that the internet has wrought. We are not far along in adjusting to this radical change. Success in addressing internet child exploitation will arrive only through creative multi-faceted responses that mirror the multifaceted nature of the internet itself.
I think the most important part of that abstract is the statement:
Success in addressing Internet child exploitation will arrive only through creative multi-faceted responses that mirror the multifaceted nature of the internet itself.
We have an expert on this issue saying that we need a creative approach to this issue and yet the response in this House by the government is brief and empty, and I fear that it is truly meaningless. We need meaningful action on child pornography.
Reporting is absolutely key but it is only the first step. We need serious attention to resources in order to stop this terrible crime.
Earlier today I was talking about this bill with my colleagues and the member for Hamilton Centre raised a very good point. He said, and I agree with him, that he was sick and tired of bills like this that the government trots out in an attempt to make it look like it cares about children when yesterday we recognized that it was 20 years ago that this House made a commitment to end child poverty in Canada. Here we are 20 years later and we do not consider giving kids a safe place to live, enough food, early childhood education or any of the things that we need to actually ensure children are healthy and safe in this country.
The only thing the bill would do is introduce mandatory reporting. What about real action to ensure our kids are safe? We purport to do things like in 1989, the unanimous House of Commons vote to end child poverty; i the Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by federal, provincial and territorial governments in 1999; in 1997, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples set a target to close the economic gap by 50%; and in 2005, the first ministers meeting on aboriginal affairs in Kelowna.
Here we are though with very little to show for it. All we have are terrible statistics like those that follow.
Between 1989 and 2008, the number of children in Canada relying on food banks grew from 151,000 to 260,000. Children are disproportionately dependent on food banks.
The average low income family lives far below the poverty line. Low income, two parent families would, on average, need an extra $9,400 a year to bring their incomes up to the poverty line, to the low income cutoff.
We have also completely abandoned aboriginal children when it comes to poverty, and also when it comes to sex crime issues. Somehow when we think about what is happening with aboriginal girls, we imagine them as being involved in the sex trade, but that is not right. They are not involved in the sex trade. It is sexual exploitation. It is child trafficking. It is the luring of aboriginal girls from their communities to cities where they are sexually exploited, and it happens because these girls are poor and forgotten.
This is a pretty sad legacy and it is part and parcel of the total lack of real action on online child pornography. It is my hope that we will have witnesses come to committee who will shed light on how we can take real action on Internet child pornography.
Perhaps we will have some witnesses from the Canadian Professional Police Association, which has said time after time that the police lack the resources for effective and meaningful crime investigations. The association has stood up publicly and called the government on its reneging on the promise for more officers and resources for police.
In a brief to the Standing Committee on Finance in 2008, the Canadian Professional Police Association spoke to this very issue of resources. I would like to read from that brief:
[The Prime Minister] launched the Conservative Party's Stand Up for Security plan during the 2006 Federal Election campaign, which included a promise to “negotiate with the provinces to create a new cost-shared program jointly with provincial and municipal governments, to put at least 2,500 more police on the beat in our cities and communities”.
In April, 2006, [the Prime Minister] came to speak to our association, and promised our delegates that his government would put in place a new cost sharing program with the provinces and municipalities to increase the number of police officers in our communities....
Our member associations feel betrayed by the government's failure to deliver upon this key election promise. We are calling on Parliament to reinforce the program commitment and design in the 2009 Federal Budget, in order to address these shortcomings.
The association feels feel betrayed. These experts in policing say they do not have enough boots on the ground. I very much look forward to their testimony on this bill to see if they think that a mandatory reporting mechanism is enough. I also look forward to hearing from other experts on online child pornography issues.
We have looked at the questions of what we are trying to accomplish and whether the proposed reforms are likely to make our communities safer. The third question that we need to answer is, do we need this legislation? Well, maybe.
One thing I know for sure is that we need more than what this bill is providing, if we are actually going to address the issue of online child pornography.