Mr. Speaker, I have a quick comment about the Liberal member's speech.
My colleague from Wild Rose, who is a member of the justice committee, reminded me that it is the Liberal members on the justice committee who are shredding and gutting our government justice bills in committee. The member's complaints would be more genuine if he were to bring those complaints to his Liberal colleagues. I really do not think the Conservatives are very interested in taking lessons on justice issues, particularly when they are delivered by Liberals.
Today we are dealing with a very important subject that is a major cause for concern. Bill C-327, An act to amend the Broadcasting Act, that is before us today for debate has the worthy objective of reducing violence in Canadian society. The reduction of violence in society is a priority of Canada's new government and I want to thank the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his efforts in bringing this enactment before Parliament.
The tabling of Bill C-327 gives us an opportunity to consider our accomplishments in Canada in addressing the exposure of Canadians, and particularly children, to the violent and offensive content in television and other media.
Bill C-327 proposes that the Broadcasting Act be amended to alter the broadcasting policy for Canada. Furthermore, it proposes that the machinery of the broadcasting system be adjusted by mandating the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, to make specific regulations respecting the broadcast of violent scenes as a means to reduce violence in society.
Bill C-327, however, seems to ignore or discard any reference to or awareness of regulations, authorities or tools in current existence in Canada's broadcasting system. One such tool is the Canada Broadcast Standards Council.
The council's mandate is to oversee the administration of the Canadian private broadcaster codes. These currently include the Canadian Association of Broadcasters', CAB, sex role portrayal code, and the CAB violence code, both of which are imposed by the CRTC as conditions of licence for Canadian broadcasters, the CAB code of ethics and the Radio and Television News Directors Association of Canada code of journalistic ethics.
I should add that the CRTC last week issued a public notice calling for comment on a new CBSC code, the journalistic independence code. It would be administered by the CBSC and would be a CRTC condition of licence on Canadian broadcasters with ownership interests in both the print and broadcast areas.
There is another code in the offing, the equitable portrayal code. It will in due course extend to all communities the benefits hitherto available on the basis of gender alone, under the terms of the sex role portrayal code. It should be the subject of another CRTC public notice this year.
It is essential to note that the codified standards reflect Canadian values.
In the exercise of the CBSC mandate, they have since 1991 received complaints from tens of thousands of Canadians about all forms of programming, whether in the news and public affairs area, drama, comedy, talk radio or television, entertainment news magazine shows, feature films, reality programming, children's programming and so on.
Moreover the CBSC receives the expression of those concerns directly and indirectly. Even those which are initially sent to the CRTC are, with rare exception, forwarded to the CBSC for resolution. They deal with approximately 2,000 complaints every year from Canadians who are unhappy about something they have seen or heard on the airwaves.
What relates to this debate is that as a percentage of complaints to the CBSC, those relating to violence on television have been steadily declining by a huge margin, namely 37%, between 2001 and 2006.
Moreover, Bill C-327 would add nothing to the panoply of tools the CBSC has to deal with the subject, since issues relating to violence on television are already thoroughly covered by the combination of the CAB violence code and the CAB code of ethics, and rigorously enforced by the self-regulatory system solidly entrenched in the Canadian broadcasting system.
There is already a watershed hour that is not limited to violence intended for adults. It restricts all forms of adult content to the post-9 p.m. period.
We already have provisions for ratings and viewer advisories, which apply well beyond violence on television. To protect children from inappropriate television programming, we already have the most detailed provisions that can be found anywhere in the world. Bill C-327, if passed, would deliver less to the Canadian public than we already have.
For my friends in Parliament who will be voting on this bill, permit me to repeat that last sentence. Bill C-327, if passed, would deliver less to the Canadian public than we already have.
It is a mark of the success of the Canadian private broadcasters' self-regulatory system that it does not require the huge financial penalties of the American regulatory process to work. The system works because the private broadcasters have committed themselves to the process. They created it. They support it financially. Ninety-five per cent of the broadcasters in Canada pay into the CBSC.
Most importantly, though, they support it morally. After all, they live in the communities in which they broadcast. They want the CBSC to deal with all substantive public concerns about content, not just some of them. They want to tell Canadians, in their languages of comfort, how to access the self-regulatory process. Thoughtful Canadian viewers will recall the number of times there have been public service announcements, at the broadcaster's expense, that have directed them to the CBSC.
I would ask hon. members to consider the overall government approach to media violence. Media literacy and empowerment is a central tenet of the Government of Canada's approach to media violence.
Strategies to combat violence in various media and to protect children in particular from injurious information and material transmitted through the media, Internet, videos and electronic games include the Canadian strategy to promote safe, wise and responsible Internet use, called the CyberWise strategy, and the work of federal-provincial-territorial officials to mitigate against the exposure of children in particular to violence in video games.
It is important for us to acknowledge that we have a limited jurisdiction over foreign television signals as well as the material that may be accessed through other media outlets such as the Internet. Foreign television and radio signals can be received over the air by any Canadian residing near the U.S. border. The CRTC has no tools to deal with these broadcasts. The CRTC authorizes some foreign services for distribution in Canada. As they are authorized but not licensed by the CRTC, the conditions of licence imposed on Canadian broadcasters do not apply and they are not subject to the Canadian broadcasting industry's code of conduct and ethics.
I was informed yesterday that for a $60 one time fee I can access foreign satellite programming from anywhere in the world, delivered to me on my computer by any high speed ISP. This is not the future. This is now, today. The service bypasses the CRTC or any regulatory authority by direct, uncensored, uncontrolled technology.
In the current media environment, we find ourselves living in a global village. It is more important than ever that Canadians be well informed about the content they may be exposed to and the possibility of new technologies, but also about the potential harmful effects and limitations.
Just as we cannot be with our children at all times to keep them safe from harm, with the digital revolution we cannot protect our children and other Canadian audiences from controversial and objectionable content that originates from all over the world, and which, as we know, can be accessed by those who are determined.
Hon. members may take note of the recent launch of National Media Education Week. This initiative is precisely the sort of action through partnership that this government supports.
In conclusion, yes, we support measures that will combat violence and crime in society, but this government should not support the regulatory measures and legal sanctions advocated in Bill C-327 because the Canadian public will end up net losers.