An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Bernard Bigras  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of April 25, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Broadcasting Act to grant the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

April 25, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

April 8th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Chair, I understand the spirit of my colleague Mr. Coderre's motion. I also understand that the amendments the government has decided to make are friendly, but it seems clear from the four points in his preamble that the member is trying to suggest an ill-intentioned link between bills C-10 andC-327

I have to ask members to recall that Bill C-327, right in its preamble that I invite them to read, makes it clear that the creative freedom of artists in the television industry must be protected. It is also clear that censorship is no solution. In its very principle, the bill rules out censorship and promotes freedom of expression. It is clear that, in its very spirit, my colleague's motion seeks to suggest ill-intentioned links. What does the bill do? It does not seek to become involved in the content of a production. Not one section of this bill seeks to become involved in the content of film productions.

Moreover, the bill does not seek to forbid the showing of films. It simply seeks to put limits on when some films can be shown. Some people have suggested that Bill C-327 is not the appropriate way to attain our goal of reducing violence in our society. I just remind them that the association representing Ontario school boards sent a letter to each member of this committee indicating its support for regulations requiring that films containing violence and rated 13 years and over should be broadcast after 9:00 p.m.

Furthermore, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the biggest education association in Quebec, clearly told us that it also wanted regulations. I deplore the link that my colleague Mr. Coderre is making. I do not know whether he is doing so because he wants to make his mark in his new portfolio, but this approach is, in my view, purely partisan, ill-intentioned and attempts to establish links that do not exist. The bill clearly rejects censorship and supports freedom of creative expression. This bill has received support from the Centrale des syndicats du Québec and the Ontario school boards association. Teachers want it, as do others who work with our children every day.

Mr. Chair, I think that my colleagues should show some political courage and at least allow this bill to be studied. That is the least we can do. How do we explain that Liberal members came out in favour of the principle of studying this bill in committee and then made a motion to put an end to all debate and stop committee study of the very same bill? It is totally unacceptable.

We are going to oppose this motion and its friendly amendments. I hope that my colleagues have the political courage to do as my NDP colleague has done and make amendments. Parliament, the House of Commons, wishes the bill to be studied here. I can understand that it may be amended, but we must remember that it is the wish of Parliament, supported by the Liberal Party of Canada, that this bill be studied in committee.

April 8th, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As agreed at our last meeting, we have a motion. My intention was to make a motion introduced simply by the words "Therefore be it", but after discussing the matter with the clerk, we decided that this would not be enough. I needed to specify the rationale and I can discuss it. I am also open to amendments.

But we must remember Bill C-10 and the fact that points have been discussed that have a direct bearing on audiovisual productions and therefore on television content. I thought that the bill would eventually make its way back here if there were amendments in the Senate. So I felt that it was somewhat redundant to continue studying the bill before us, however noble its goal. I feel that everyone is in favour of freedom of expression and that we all agree that we have responsibilities.

But given that work is presently proceeding on Bill C-10 and that this cause and effect link might cause us to amend Bill C-327, I asked, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, that the House of Commons proceed no further with Bill C-327 and that the Chair present the report to the House. Therefore, I so move.

April 3rd, 2008 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Well, Chair, I wish folks would accept your apologies for the fuzziness of the language, because it puts me in a very difficult position. Today when I checked the committee's agenda there was no mention of clause-by-clause study of Bill C-327.

In fact the copy of the agenda that I brought with me has committee business, notice of motion from Bill Siksay, and planning for future business.

Then I arrive at committee and find this longer agenda that includes clause-by-clause study. In fact my office tried to contact the clerk's office a number of times to clarify if this was on the agenda. Unfortunately, we didn't get clarification. I asked you before the meeting began, Chair, whether this was clause-by-clause study, and you told me that it was not; it was a discussion about how we'd do that stage of the work on the bill.

I would ask if we could put it off to one of our meetings next week, to do clause-by-clause. I'm hoping that I might have, again, some amendments that I think may be helpful to ensure that we take Monsieur Biron's intentions seriously about addressing this important issue, as well as many of our witnesses' concerns about this issue, but also avoid the problems of censorship, which are a real serious concern to many of us.

I do think that might be a helpful endeavour for the committee to consider. I would like to have that opportunity to present those, to at least get some finality on those motions to decide whether they can go forward or not.

April 3rd, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Let me push a little bit more, because I like that.

When we're looking at Standing Order 97.1(1), we're talking about what we're going to do with that bill. Can we then put up an option? You have two options. You have an option to deal with it, and that's your calendar, and you have an option not to deal with it and kill it. That's another option.

Now, is that to amend the order of the day, which is not a motion on new business. It's about changing the agenda, and on that agenda we're dealing with what we are going to do with Bill C-327, because that's the committee business.

April 3rd, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

I totally understand it. Mr. Siksay alluded to that earlier when he asked if we are doing clause-by-clause today, and I said no.

I will take full responsibility for the clumsiness of the writing of this, because what I was trying to do today was to get a day in which we could just take a breath of fresh air and see where we're going forward. What we were going to do on Tuesday was work on Bill C-327.

April 3rd, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Chairman, I don't know if this is helpful or not, but I think there's an ambiguity here. I believe that what you intended on this notice of motion was to discuss how we were going to go about clause-by-clause study, not that we were.

Okay, I understand that, but unfortunately—and as I say, I don't know whether I'm being helpful or not—the fact is that if you read it the way you read it, although that may have been your intention.... Nonetheless if you read it, it says the bill, clause-by-clause study, and Bill C-327.

April 3rd, 2008 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

On a point of order, I do remember that for procedure, when we're dealing with the business of the day, which is exactly what's in it, you don't need that 48 hours' notice. You can have the motion right away and deal with it.

So I would ask the clerk what she has in mind, because we are dealing with Bill C-327.

April 1st, 2008 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

I'm going to call on everyone to please take your seats if you can.

I'd like to welcome our young witnesses. You don't have to be nervous today. I'm a grandpa, so you don't have to worry about me. I have grandchildren not quite as old as some of the oldest here, but as old as some of the younger.

I would like to welcome all the young witnesses who have joined us today. I will start our session by sharing a few things with you to help inform our discussion.

As you may already know, the committee has been looking at Bill C-327, which proposes new regulations to limit the amount of violent content available on television.

We are here today to learn from you, since you know best what you like to watch and why. Many of our meetings so far have focused on young people and the extent to which television programming made for young people needs to have greater oversight. We have also heard that youth are watching more and more violent content on the Internet, on websites such as YouTube. Because of this, it has been suggested that it is more important that young people learn for themselves how to make good choices about what they watch rather than having us attempt to determine the choices for you.

We have invited you here today because we want to learn directly from you about your experiences and your understanding of the programming that you like to watch. We would like to hear what you think about the need for rules to protect you from unsuitable content, particularly that which contains violence. We would also like to hear from you about the people who have helped you to make choices about the programs you watch.

Our hope today is for a productive and informative conversation among us all.

Thank you very much for coming today.

One thing I'd just like to let you know is that at 5:15 we are going to have bells because there's a vote at 5:30, but don't let the bells bother you; we'll carry on. We hope to carry on very close to 5:30 because we only have to go down the hall, and we want to make the most of your presence here with us today.

One thing I am going to ask is that as we go around with our questions, I would ask the witnesses--you young people here today--to put your hand up, just like in school, if you have an answer, and I'll try to get to you. Try to keep your answers as short as you can. I'm going to ask the people around the table to keep the questions as concise as we can.

First of all, I'll ask you to introduce yourselves. Just say who you are and your age if you could, please.

April 1st, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Welcome to this 23rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, October 16, 2007, Bill C-327, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act in regard to reduction of violence in television broadcasts.

We welcome today Mr. René Caron.

Sir, I'm glad we could make it available that you could be here today. I understand that you didn't trust the train today; you brought a bus, because the train went backwards the last time.

We're going to try to hold this part of the meeting to about 45 minutes. You have about 10 minutes to make your address. I'm sorry for the shortness of time, but we do have eight young Canadians coming in following you, sir, and we have to make some time for them also.

Welcome to our committee, and please bring your words forward.

March 13th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
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Emily Noble President, Canadian Teachers' Federation

Thank you very much.

The Canadian Teachers' Federation, CTF, is the national voice for teachers in Canada on education and related social issues. Our membership includes teacher organizations in every province and territory, representing 220,000 teachers across the country. We appreciate the opportunity to present this submission to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage as it debates Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act.

Next to parents, who best understands the impact media violence has on our young? Teachers often stand as witness to the physical and psychological fallout from media violence.

With your permission, we will speak to what we know and what we see that is needed. We will speak to more than just media violence by way of TV; we will speak to our concerns about bullying and violence that has the potential to or does directly affect our students, our schools, and teachers, through all entertainment and communications media.

What we know. On November 19, 2003, we released the results of a landmark national survey of 5,756 students in grades 3 to 10--and these would be eight-year-olds to 15-year-olds--entitled, “Kids' Take on Media”. This survey was made possible by a Government of Canada grant through the Department of Justice's National Crime Prevention Centre.

Among results were the following: 48% of Canadian kids aged eight to 15 have their own TV--and this was in 2003--and 35% have their own VCR; 75% of the kids in grades 7 to 10 watch restricted movies at home; in grade 7, 25% of children have personally rented an R-rated video; and 60% of boys in grades 3 to 6 play video and computer games almost every day.

One of the top choices for both francophone and anglophone boys in grades 3 to 6--and this would be eight-year-olds to 11-year-olds--is Grand Theft Auto, an ultraviolent action game aimed at mature audiences, which involves murder, bludgeoning, and prostitution. In grades 3 to 6, roughly 30% of kids claim they have never had any adult input about what TV shows they can watch; by grade 6 it rises to 50%, and by grade 8 it is 60%.

With game playing, adult involvement is as follows: in grades 3 to 4, the top figure for parental involvement never rises above 50%; by grade 7, 75% of adults never tell children what video or computer games they can or cannot play.

Another finding was that 51% of kids in grades 7 to 10 stated they had witnessed imitation or some violent act from a movie or TV show. Violent acts can include imitating a dangerous stunt; it does not necessarily mean aggressive violence directed against another person.

Some of the most important findings: the “Kids' Take on Media” study shows that kids and adolescents whose parents supervise their TV viewing and who discuss violence, racism, and sexism in the media are more likely to be aware of the negative impact of media violence. Many children, however, are on their own.

In response to this survey, the Canadian Teachers' Federation, with partners like Media Awareness Network, the Canadian School Boards Association, and the Canadian Home and School Federation, developed a tips bulletin for parents and a teachers' study activity guide.

Some of the other findings and more recent data from teachers we see in the 2005 Canadian Teachers' Federation's national teachers poll: 78% of teachers reported witnessing a student physically assaulting and/or intimidating another student; 75% of teachers reported witnessing a student verbally abusing another student.

In the 2006 Canadian Teachers' Federation's national issues in education poll, the public was asked what they consider serious problems in community schools. Tied for first as most serious were bullying and violence: 76% said “very or somewhat serious” and 44% said “very serious”.

In November 2007, in a release of the most comprehensive survey of teachers ever conducted in Canada, entitled “School Teachers in Canada: Context, Profile, and Work”, the following was found.

In response to the question, “To what extent do the following hinder the accomplishment of your duties when considering various school concerns?”, the second highest response of teachers, 51%, was intimidation or bullying among students.

Now we come to the most recent form of threat and potential violence by way of a communications medium, one that we have targeted as a major component of this whole issue, and that is cyber-bullying.

Cyber-bullying is described as “the use of information and communication technologies, such as e-mail, cellphone, pager, text messages, instant messaging, and websites to support deliberately repeated and hostile behaviour that is intended to harm others. That was a definition by Bill Belsey, teacher and founder of bullying.org.

Cathy Wing of the Media Awareness Network calls it an online culture of cruelty.

This is an issue closely linked to violence in television broadcasting, as many of the same assumptions on context and outcomes are relevant in promoting an ambivalence towards the use of violence in our daily lives.

In July 2007, at the Canadian Teachers' Federation annual general meeting in Toronto, a mandate was given to our organization to address the rapidly emerging issue and determine what we know about it.

An extensive study of Canadian youth—5,200 children in grades 4 through 11—conducted between 2003 and 2005 by the Media Awareness Network and entitled “Young Canadians in a Wired World” found that 94% go online at home; 86% have their own e-mail accounts; 89% of grade 4 students play games online; 34% of students in grades 7 to 11 report being bullied, while 2% of those reported talk about being severely harmed; 59% report assuming another identity on the Internet, and of those, 17% say they pretended to be someone else because “I can act mean to people and not get into trouble”.

The most recent survey on the topic, whose initial findings were released February 2008 and which involved 2,000 students in Toronto in grades 6 and 7 and grades 10 and 11, was conducted by Associate Professor Faye Mishna from the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. The findings include the following: 21% reported being cyber-bullied, 35% reported cyber-bullying others, 46% have a computer in their bedroom, 33% have given a password to a friend, 28% have watched someone else being bullied online, and 67% of parents don't supervise Internet use.

Finally, results from the recent Canadian Teachers' Federation “National Issues in Education” poll conducted in February 2008 reveal that 85% of the public are familiar with the term “cyber-bullying”; 34% indicate that they were aware of students in their community school being cyber-bullied; 91% believe that parents should become knowledgeable and responsible in monitoring their children's activities with the Internet and electronic communication devices; 71% believe that the development of legislation that better protects students and teachers from cyber-bullying would be somewhat or very effective in preventing cyber-bullying; 56% believe holding Internet service providers and wireless telephone providers accountable, if their services are used for cyber-bullying, would be somewhat or very effective; and 70% believe school boards should hold students accountable, even if the cyber-bullying originates from outside the school.

We cannot ignore the obvious. It is clear that for teenagers the web has become a virtual hangout. For instance, it was reported in MCT Business News in May 2007 that in the U.S. more than 70% of girls aged 15 to 17 use social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook.

Our children are adopting and adapting to the new communication technology. With the new opportunities, however, come new negative realities. Cyber-bullying combines the devastating psychological effects of both verbal and social bullying. The impact, however, can be even more profound, because the child who is being victimized often doesn't know who's doing the harassing, and many people can covertly witness or join in the bullying.

We're here today to speak not only to the issue of violence on TV but to the threats, bullying, and violence through all communications media. We include in this the threat of cyber-bullying. Therefore, we are here today to speak not only to the issue of violence on TV but also to cyber-bullying.

Bill C-327 may or may not be a particularly good tool to address this issue; however, something must be done. The CTF is addressing the issue of media violence, and particularly cyber-bullying, in two ways: first, using opportunities to educate the public, parents, teachers, children, school boards, and governments on the issue; and second, searching for ways in which the regulatory framework can further serve to protect everybody from the negative impact of violence and the inappropriate use of communication technology.

If we extend these strategies to this discussion, we would recommend two things: education and protection. Education means funding support for continued research into bullying and violence through any media as well as the development of resources and supports to assist students, teachers, and parents in appropriate responses to perceived and realized media threats and violence. Protection, our second recommendation, includes the development of more appropriate classification and monitoring mechanisms on the part of federal regulatory bodies in light of the development of even more violent and reprehensible video games, amendments to the Criminal Code that make the law more effective in controlling the capabilities of emerging technology, and the development of a national-international legal collaborative framework to address the hosting and delivery of offensive, illegal, inappropriate materials from outside our country, i.e., the inter-service providers.

Thank you.

March 13th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

I'm going to call the meeting to order. Sorry, we're a little late. We had a late vote. Welcome to meeting number 22 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, October 16, 2007, we are here to study Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

I welcome our witnesses from the Canadian Teachers' Federation, Emily Noble and Myles Ellis; and from Media Action, Shari Graydon. Thank you for coming.

I'm going to ask the Canadian Teachers' Federation to give the first presentation.

Go ahead, ma'am.

March 11th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

I'd like to make what I hope will be taken as a helpful suggestion. I think there's no question, with the kinds of questions that have been asked by members of all parties, that there's a desire to see the ability to do whatever we can do in order to make our society safer. The dispute, I suppose, is between the position of the proposer of this motion and our friends from the Bloc, who are supporting him, in terms of this bill and what it would mean.

When Mr. von Finckenstein was here, I think he made a very constructive suggestion. He was talking about the CRTC having two extremes, of having a scalpel that wouldn't be useful in some situations and a hammer that would take three or four years to get any kind of penalty, if a penalty was going to be imposed against a broadcaster. What he asked was that the CRTC be given the power to impose administrative monetary penalties, or AMPs. If I recall correctly, he was asking if that could be included in Bill C-327. I think most of us recall that.

I would like to make, hopefully, the constructive suggestion to my colleagues that before we conclude our hearings on Bill C-327, we recall Mr. von Finckenstein--and it might even be very brief, maybe just even half an hour--to speak directly to this so we can have that as part of our consideration as to how we end up dealing with Bill C-327.

March 11th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Chair, I'd like not to have another round, but I would also like to bring up a topical item for the committee to study after we're through with Bill C-327, if I could.

March 11th, 2008 / 4:30 p.m.
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Catherine Wong Articled Student, B.C. Civil Liberties Association

Good afternoon. My name is Catherine Wong, and I'm an articled student at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

The BCCLA was formed in 1963 and is Canada's most active advocate defending civil liberties and democratic freedoms. The association has a long history of providing input to government and the courts on matters of vital importance to civil liberties in Canada.

I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak about the impact of Bill C-327. I'll begin my comments with some general propositions concerning the importance of freedom of expression in our society, and I'll continue with the association's main concern with the potential for violations of free expression by the delegation of regulation-making powers that proposed subsection 10.1(1) of the bill gives the commission, followed by some practical and philosophical considerations when considering the impact of Bill C-327.

The BCCLA has consistently championed the cause of expressive freedom and argued for its centrality to a democratic process. Freedom of expression has long been held to be a fundamental freedom necessary for a flourishing democracy. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, along with a long line of case law, has consistently found that freedom of expression is critical to pursuit of truth, self-fulfillment, and the functioning of democracy.

Within the sphere of constitutionally protected freedoms is a free press. The substantive protection of expression is content neutral and includes speech, art, images, as well as violent content. Depictions of violence can also serve as forms of political and artistic expression. The justification for such broad protection is grounded in the recognition that humans are autonomous individuals who are capable of making decisions for themselves.

Empowering the CRTC to make regulations limiting content based on their perception of whether it is inappropriately violent in nature raises concerns of censorship, prior restraint, and gives rise to potential violations of expressive freedom.

The proposed bill would censor protected speech on public airwaves in Canada. Worse, it would do so without offering any effective remedy for Canadians.

Bill C-327 creates an architecture that allows for the limitation of expressive freedom. In the past we've seen that when such an architecture has been set up, unjustifiable censorship is sure to follow.

The BCCLA opposes the passing of Bill C-327 due to its inevitable violation of legally protected expression.

Proposed subsection 10.1(1) of the bill delegates to the commission the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent content, including that contained in programs intended for persons under the age of 12 years. The BCCLA has at least three specific concerns related to the vagueness of the proposed legislation.

First, the provision delegates a broad power to the commission and thereby advocates the responsibility of democratically elected legislators to fashion clear and understandable laws.

Second, the provision creates a structure that inevitably will infringe upon constitutionally protected expression. The commission is given a mandate to regulate violent content, and will presumably follow that vague mandate.

Third, the phrase “including those contained in programs intended for persons under the age of 12 years” suggests that the overall standard of adjudication in setting these regulations should be programming appropriate for children.

We submit that this threshold is inappropriate as it invites an overly restrictive interpretation and does not use the least restrictive means available to address whatever might be argued to be the “problem”.

Bill C-327 is directed towards the public, not towards children. The highlighting of the interests of children within the provision creates an increased likelihood of violations of free expression of all.

The analysis of this proposed legislation must start with the observation that violent content is not illegal expression. However, limiting such content is an infringement on the right to free expression. The effect of proposed subsection 10.1(1) is that the commission would be granted broad powers to become a supernanny of broadcast television for both children and adults alike. The cost of this kind of censorship would be high, both economically and socially.

The preamble of the bill purports to recognize creative freedom and that “censorship is not a solution”. Despite this recognition, the objective of regulating violent content and the lack of any type of standard or guideline for application means that there will assuredly be some violation of free expression.

As there is no confirmation process to vet the regulations created, the only remedy would be to litigate the commission's rulings. It is fair to say that this is a costly burden for both broadcasting companies and private individuals alike.

It is also fair to say that many, if not most, companies are unwilling to engage in the arduous legal process of judicially reviewing a ruling and following up the potential appeals. Instead, the most likely result is a chill effect on speech, whereby broadcasters will curtail the programming with the aim of complying with the regulations. The social cost will be less intelligent and less thought-provoking programming, and overall less diversity and social expression.

The association would like to direct your attention to a litigation that culminated in the Little Sister's Book and Art Emporium v. Canada case in 2002 at the Supreme Court of Canada. Little Sister's is a business located in Vancouver that sells books and magazines, most of which are written by and for the gay and lesbian community. Most of the books and magazines sold by Little Sister's are published in the United States and imported into Canada by Little Sister's. The BCCLA was a co-plaintive in this case.

In the Little Sister's case the government, via the customs tariff and the Customs Act, delegated the power to regulate the import of obscene materials to customs agents. The delegation of this broad power, which lacked any standards for application, and the lack of training provided to the officials empowered to make such determinations resulted in an overbroad application of the laws, which essentially censored protected speech.

From approximately 1985 until the trial in 1994, hundreds of books and magazines that Little Sister's imported and purchased were detained, prohibited, as well as destroyed by customs officials because they were deemed to be obscene. Over the course of the trial and its subsequent appeals, it was revealed that customs officers made arbitrary decisions, procedures were haphazardly applied, and there was no proper training or adequate time given to such decisions. There was no formal procedure for placing evidence of artistic or literary merit before the classifying officers. Most importantly, most publications were prohibited entry into Canada that would not have been found to be obscene if full evidence was considered by officers properly trained to weigh and evaluate those materials.

The result of these shortcomings was a disturbingly high amount of homosexual art and literature that was not obscene but was prohibited. The delegation of power to customs officers resulted in customs officers being arbiters and guardians of a paternalistic scheme that denied access to protected expression.

As we saw with the Little Sister's case, the delegation of broad powers affecting free speech and communication created a structure that, while holding the appearance to some of being innocent and benign, inevitably led to charter infringement. If the agency assigned to apply the law is not sufficiently cautious--in this case, the CRTC--fundamental freedoms can be encroached upon unnecessarily.

Along with the legal considerations I've outlined, I will look to turn the committee's attention to the practicality of Bill C-327.

As evidenced in the preamble, the bill presupposes a relationship between violence on television and violence in society. Whether there is a clear causal link between violence on television and violence in society remains very much in dispute. The BCCLA does not believe that turning the commission into a supernanny is a solution to decreasing societal violence.

At a practical level, there are everyday realities that we as a society must face, one being that we live in a society that unfortunately experiences violence. Thus, programs such as news broadcasts and documentaries, while possibly disturbing to watch, serve as important instruments for public safety, intelligent discourse, democratic accountability, dissemination of important information, and public decision-making.

The potential effect of this bill is the creation of regulations that will call for a sugar-coating of our daily news broadcasts. They will obscure the current realities of society and the challenges that we face.

At an operational level, the BCCLA questions the effectiveness of the bill. With modern technology such as satellite television, digital cable, and the Internet, individuals are able to access channels from across Canada, the United States, and all over the world, the content of which can be even more graphic and violent than that found in Canadian programming.

To bring a west coast perspective, we know this complicates the 9 p.m. threshold argument, as it is not only possible but also increasingly common for Vancouverites to be watching eastern broadcasting, which broadcasts at local times. Therefore, while it may be 7 p.m. in Vancouver, we're watching 10 p.m. broadcasts being aired for a Toronto audience. As a result, regulations predicated on time zones and broadcast restrictions are increasingly losing their effectiveness. Moreover, more and more individuals are accessing their television programming from the Internet.

If the aim of Bill C-327 is to enable the CRTC to protect Canadians from violent content, regulation through time and place will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, short of regulating the Internet.

My last point is philosophical in nature. The BCCLA has long argued for freedom of expression and the right of an individual to make his or her own choices. This is based on the belief that individuals are autonomous beings. We have a faculty of reason. We are capable of making our own decisions, and indeed the exercise of this faculty plays a significant role in a flourishing and democratic society. Consequently, the limiting of choice and free expression hinders not only the self-fulfillment of the individual but also the well-being of society.

The delegation of regulation-making power poses two concerns. First, individuals are unable to access constitutionally protected expression and are consequently unable to determine for themselves what they view or to formulate thoughts on it. Second, parents and guardians are unable to determine what is appropriate for their children to view. This is one step too far for the state to be venturing into the private sphere. If the parents want to censor what their children have access to on television, they can do so by a variety of means, including V-chips or other types of technology. As parents decide the appropriateness of books, music, and hobbies, they should also be able to determine what their children watch. Indeed, those households with satellite television or digital cable are already doing so.

In conclusion, the BCCLA submits that the proposed bill creates a structure that will violate free expression. Considering the costs, the practical effects of Bill C-327, and the philosophical underpinnings, the proposed structure is inadequate to provide safeguards against violations of free speech. Bill C-327 should not be passed into law.

Thank you for your time and attention.

March 6th, 2008 / 4:25 p.m.
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Ronald I. Cohen National Chair, Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Merci, monsieur le président. Thank you very much, everyone.

My name is Ronald Cohen. I'm the national chair of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. With me today is John MacNab, the executive director of the CBSC.

I thank the committee for inviting us to express our views on the bill. We are also grateful that we have been accorded the opportunity to speak at the end of these deliberations. It gives us the opportunity to respond to issues raised during the appearance of other witnesses. And we will of course look forward to the additional questions you will have for us.

Let us begin by making our position utterly clear: we do not believe that Bill C-327 is either necessary or even moderately useful in dealing with the issue of violence on television.

We have filed a written presentation with the committee clerk that will hopefully provide a useful tour d'horizon of the issue. I will try to limit this oral presentation to the clarification of matters raised by witnesses and members of this committee.

The first issue is the nature and extent of the problem of exposure of our children to violence in the media. Is problematic violent content increasing or decreasing? The answer is that it is decreasing. The best evidence of this, as mentioned by Cathy Wing a few moments ago, is the level of complaints filed with the CBSC and the CRTC. Between 2000 and the end of February 2008, the level of complaints about violence on television fell by 22%. The statistics cited by Monsieur Bigras are neither recent nor appropriate. They do not extend beyond 2002, and even then they do not disclose what they cover or represent.

It is essential to acknowledge that not all violence is created equal. The original study of Mr. De Guise and Mr. Paquette, covering the period 1993 to 1998, made no distinction between appropriate and inappropriate violence. Monsieur Bigras referred to the eminent authority in the area, Professor George Gerbner, with great respect this past Tuesday. But what he did not acknowledge to you was that the Laval study did not follow Professor Gerbner's methodology.

The authors of the Laval study said:

Unlike Gerbner, who considers sequences of violence, we decided to count violent acts, such that, in this study, each separate gesture, action and event is considered as a separate act of violence.

Those are their words. They underscore that the numbers they report are exaggerated. Moreover, they make no distinction between our common goal of protecting children, on the one hand, and violence that may not be problematic or inappropriate at all, on the other. The bottom line is that there is simply no evidence that there is, in 2008, any problem that needs parliamentary intervention of any kind.

Second, the system is actually working.

When Mr. Scott observed on Tuesday that he knew that Mr. Bigras believed that the present system was failing, he added that he had not understood Mr. Bigras' explanation as to why he thought the system was failing.

Nor will the committee members have missed the response to the question put by Mr. Abbott regarding the absence of complaints about children's programming subsequent to the CBSC's Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers decision.

Monsieur Bigras was either unable or unwilling to cite a single example of problematic children's programming since the 1994 CBSC decision. It's because there hasn't been one.

Third, much justification for Bill C-327 has been placed on the fact that the violence code is voluntary. The only aspect, members of this committee, of the violence code that is voluntary is its title. As the CRTC chairman said on Tuesday, the code is obligatory: it is a condition of licence for every television broadcaster in this country. It could not be more involuntary.

Moreover, the statement by Monsieur Bigras that the adjudication is undertaken by industry peers, les pairs qu'li a mentionnés, is totally wrong. The adjudicating panels are all composed of at least 50% members of the public, including former CRTC commissioners, former members of Parliament and cabinet ministers, a former provincial premier, a former lieutenant governor, communications professors, the former head of the Vanier Institute of the Family, the head of the Centre de recherche-action sur les relations raciales of Montreal, the former head of Media Watch, and many other highly credible and committed Canadians who are devoted to public service.

Fourth, much emphasis has been placed on the fact that the violence code is a creation of the private broadcasters. I will not dwell on the notion that because broadcasters had something to do with its creation, they would have done so only to serve their own self-interest. That concept is outrageous.

Any one of you will readily confirm, on the basis of your own constituency experience, that local broadcasters devote considerable time, energy, resources, and promotional benefits to telethons and other local community initiatives. In good times and in bad, in ice storms, fires, and floods, broadcasters are there for the good of the public.

Leaving that aside, do not forget for an instant that as the CRTC chairman pointed out Tuesday, the commission vetted every word of the violence code before it was approved. Having participated in that process in 1993, I can tell you on an anecdotal basis that the wording went back and forth several times before all the CRTC's issues were resolved.

Moreover, the consultation process with stakeholders was substantial. During the development of the code, comments were invited from many public representatives, a list of which is appended to the CBSC's written presentation that the clerk has distributed to all of you.

The public organizations included Media Watch, Owl Centre for Children's Film and Television, the Alliance for Children and Television, l'Association nationale des téléspectateurs et des téléspectatrices, le Groupe de recherche sur les jeunes et les médias pour la coalition contre la violence dans les émissions pour enfants, le Conseil du statut de la femme, Canadians Concerned About Violence in Entertainment, and the Animal Alliance of Canada, among others.

Fifth, Monsieur Bigras is not satisfied by the present complaints-driven system. He proposes a monitoring system of some unspecified description. I fully expect that Monsieur Bigras was surprised, if not shocked, to learn that both the CRTC and the CBSC operate on the basis of complaints made to them by members of the public. That was unequivocally confirmed by the CRTC chairman on Tuesday, and that is as it should be, for two reasons.

First, censorship is anathema to Canadians. When Mr. Abbott asked Monsieur Bigras whether the bill's proposer was not talking about censorship, Monsieur Bigras was at pains to avoid such a characterization, understandably. He admitted that he did not favour censorship, yet that is essentially the effect of Bill C-327. Let us not mince words. That is exactly what a monitoring system not based on public complaints is: censorship, nothing more or less.