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.

Bill C-377—Income Tax Act—Speaker's RulingPoints of Order

December 6th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 22, 2012 by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie regarding the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), standing in the name of the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

I would like to thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for having raised the matter; as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; the hon. House leader of the official opposition; and the members for Saint-Lambert, Cape Breton—Canso and South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale for their interventions.

In raising this matter, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie explained that the provisions of clause 1 of the bill would result in expenditures of public funds in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized. Specifically, he claimed that a new entity within the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) would have to be created to administer and enforce the provisions contained in the bill, and that there would be costs incurred in setting up a new computer system to meet the requirements of the legislation. These, he concluded, would constitute “new and distinct” costs, thereby creating a need for a royal recommendation.

Similarly, the member for Cape Breton—Canso argued that the bill envisioned a new function and purpose within the CRA and as such the terms and conditions of the royal recommendation that authorizes the agency's current spending would be altered. He also suggested that Bill C-377 would regulate the internal affairs of unions and the relationships with their members, thus giving the CRA a new labour relations function.

For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons rejected these arguments, claiming instead that the authority to spend for the purposes set out in the bill would fall under the general authority of existing broader provisions of the Income Tax Act, as well as the agency's general authorities under the Canada Revenue Agency Act. He illustrated this by referring to those portions of the Income Tax Act dealing with reporting requirements for charity organizations. He also stated that, should additional funds be required, the government would seek them from Parliament through an appropriation bill covering operating expenses.

The question before us is whether the implementation of Bill C-377 would constitute a new appropriation requiring a royal recommendation, or whether the costs would be administrative in nature and would fall under the ongoing mandate of the Canada Revenue Agency.

I would like to remind the House of the conditions under which a royal recommendation is required. As the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie noted in his presentation, bills which authorize new charges for purposes not anticipated in the estimates require royal recommendations. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 833 further states:

The charge imposed by the legislation must be “new and distinct”; in other words, not covered elsewhere by some more general authorization.

The Canada Revenue Agency already has the mandate to administer various tax and benefits regimes and to manage a broad range of other programs and activities. More specifically, section 5 of the Canada Revenue Agency Act mandates the agency to support the administration and enforcement of program legislation. Furthermore, in reviewing the documentation provided by the member for Saint-Lambert, which makes reference to specific cost information provided by the CRA in response to questions from the Standing Committee on Finance, the Chair notes the references made to section 220 of the Income Tax Act, which states:

(1) The Minister shall administer and enforce this Act and the Commissioner of Revenue may exercise all the powers and perform the duties of the Minister under this Act.

(2) Such officers, clerks and employees as are necessary to administer and enforce this Act shall be appointed or employed in the manner authorized by law.

In carefully reviewing this matter, it seems to the Chair that the provisions of the bill, namely the requirements for the agency to administer new filing requirements for labour organizations and making information available to the public, may result in an increased workload or operating costs but do not require spending for a new function per se. In other words, the agency, as part of its ongoing mandate, already administers filing requirements and makes information available to the public. The requirements contained in Bill C-377 can thus be said to fall within the existing spending authorization of the agency.

In a ruling given by Speaker Milliken on February 23, 2007, which can be found at page 7261 of Debates, he stated, in relation to the then Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), that:

Bill C-327 may or may not result in a greater workload for the CRTC, but the activities being proposed are within its mandate. If additional staff or resources are required to perform these activities then they would be brought forward in a separate appropriation bill for Parliament’s consideration.

It appears to the Chair that a similar situation would arise should Bill C-377 be enacted and, thus, that this particular ruling is directly relevant and applicable to the current circumstance.

A second ruling by Speaker Milliken, this one on December 3, 2010, Debates page 6803, in reference to then Bill C-568, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (mandatory long-form census), is also helpful. In that ruling it was apparent to the Speaker that the proposed legislation was not adding to or expanding upon the existing mandate of Statistics Canada and, thus, that the bill in question did not require a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, the Chair rules that Bill C-377 in its current form does not require a royal recommendation to proceed through the next stages of the legislative process.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Bill C-377—Income Tax ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

November 28th, 2012 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the member's attempt at brevity but I must say that it reminded of that old classic movie, Airplane from 1980, penned by Jim Abrahams and David Zucker.

What I kept thinking of when I was listening to his brief presentation was those continuous scenes where Ted Striker, the ex-army pilot who was afraid to fly would continue to tell stories to the people in the seat next to him and they would end up attempting suicide. However, I do want to thank my friend for being at least a little more brief than the official opposition House leader. I will attempt to be even briefer than my friend from the Liberal Party.

I rise to respond to last Thursday's intervention by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and yesterday's intervention by the hon. member for Saint-Lambert concerning a royal recommendation for Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations).

Bill C-377 was introduced on December 5, 2011, by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale and has since been read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance. The bill would amend the Income Tax Act to require labour organizations to provide financial information for public disclosure.

I would note that this bill was not identified by the Speaker as an item of concern with respect to the financial prerogative of the Crown, nor has it been the subject of an intervention by a minister of the Crown or a parliamentary secretary on behalf of one.

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie argued that the provisions of the bill requiring labour organizations to submit financial information and the requirement for the Canada Revenue Agency to publish the information on a website with search tools somehow represent new and distinct charges on the treasury which are not currently authorized.

The hon. member for Saint-Lambert then added the information provided to the finance committee by the Canada Revenue Agency which provided estimates on the expected incremental costs associated with implementation.

There are procedural authorities and precedents for cases where a new royal recommendation was not required for incremental modifications to expand the operation of provisions already authorized by a royal recommendation. The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie cited page 833 of the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice. The most relevant portion pertaining to amending bills, such as Bill C-377, is that a royal recommendation is required for:

...bills which authorize new charges for purposes not anticipated in the estimates. The charge imposed by the legislation must be “new and distinct”; in other words, not covered elsewhere by some more general authorization.

Section 220 of the Income Tax Act provides the minister with the authority to administer and enforce the provisions of the act. Indeed, this authority was cited in the same materials provided to the finance committee which the member for Saint-Lambert cited yesterday.

In particular, subsection 220(2) provides broadly and generally that:

Such officers, clerks and employees as are necessary to administer and enforce this Act shall be appointed or employed in the manner authorized by law.

Clearly, the authority to retain any necessary staff has already been addressed by Parliament.

It may also be useful to add here that subsection 5(1) of the Canada Revenue Agency Act provides that:

The Agency is responsible for

(a) supporting the administration and enforcement of the program legislation....

Program legislation is, in turn, defined in section 2 of that act as:

....any other Act of Parliament....

(a) that the Governor in Council or Parliament authorizes the Minister, the Agency, the Commissioner or an employee of the Agency to administer or enforce, including the....the Income Tax Act....

Indeed, this broad mandate already enjoyed by the Canada Revenue Agency is addressed in response to the Liberal question 1(a) in the finance committee materials the hon. member for Saint-Lambert cited, which asked how Bill C-377 aligns with the Canada Revenue Agency's mandate.

The agency replied:

A measure introduced by Parliament that is incorporated into the Income Tax Act and falls under the responsibility of the Minister of National Revenue will be administered by the CRA. Parliament determines if a measure will be incorporated into the Income Tax Act.

In other words, the Canada Revenue Agency has already been given a broad, sweeping mandate to administer and enforce federal taxation laws. Meanwhile, other existing provisions of the Income Tax Act allow the minister to require certain persons or entities to file information for the purposes of taxation.

Specifically, for example, subsection 149(14) dealing with qualified donors provides a requirement for public foundations to

—file with the Minister both an information return and a public information return for the year in prescribed form and containing prescribed information.

In other words, the act already requires information to be submitted to the minister in a prescribed form and containing prescribed information. Therefore, this does not constitute a new function, mandate or duty for the minister or the agency.

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie also argued that making the information public represented a new and distinct activity that was not currently authorized.

First, the agency has a comprehensive website which publishes lots of information and materials, so that would not be a new responsibility for the agency.

As for making information public, I would note that the Income Tax Act provides provisions now to that effect. Subsection 149(15) relates to information that may be communicated in respect of charitable organizations. It states:

—the information contained in a public information return...shall be communicated or otherwise made available to the public by the Minister in such manner as the Minister deems appropriate...the Minister may make available to the public in any manner that the Minister considers appropriate...

In other words, the act provides the minister with the authority to publish in any manner the minister considers appropriate the content of a public information return. That other information would fall within an existing mandate and duty does not, I submit, require a royal recommendation.

Turning to some precedents, on February 10, 1998, at page 3647 of the Debates, Bill S-3, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act, was found not to require a royal recommendation. In his ruling, Mr. Speaker Parent said, in a case where powers were expanded yet no royal recommendation was needed, that:

It seems fairly evident that the powers of the superintendent would be extended by Bill S-3. It may well be that additional expenditures would be incurred because of those enhanced powers of the superintendent. Should an increase in resources be necessary as a result of these new powers, the necessary allocation of money would have to be sought by means of an appropriation bill because I was unable to find any provision for money in Bill S-3.

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie made mention of the additional tasks which would fall to the employees of the agency as well as training which might be required for the new filings. Your immediate predecessor's ruling, Mr. Speaker, at page 7261 of the Debates for February 23, 2007 on Bill C-327, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act answers this point, states:

Bill C-327 may or may not result in a greater workload for the CRTC, but the activities being proposed are within its mandate. If additional staff or resources are required to perform these activities then they would be brought forward in a separate appropriation bill for Parliament’s consideration.

More recent, on October 26, 2010, Mr. Speaker Milliken ruled concerning the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-300, an act respecting corporate accountability for the activities of mining, oil or gas in developing countries. The bill, among other things, required the Minister of Foreign Affairs to establish a process for the examination of complaints concerning possible contraventions of the guidelines. The Speaker ruled then:

—the Chair is of the view that the examination of such complaints is not a departure from or expansion of the current ministerial mandate under the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act...Bill C-300 may put forth more stringent requirements, but it does not expand the mandate per se.

It may be that a reorganization of resources or even additional funds would be required, however, it appears these would be operational in nature.

I submit that Bill C-377 is consistent with the precedents cited in that it does not authorize a new expenditure of public funds. Rather it deals with the operation of provisions already authorized by Parliament which were accompanied by a royal recommendation at the time these provisions were enacted.

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie mentioned that there was nothing set out in the recently tabled supplementary estimates (B) for this fiscal year. The hon. member for Saint-Lambert also claimed that this was confirmed in the agency's answers to finance committee.

Let us be clear. The usual practice we can expect to see unfold would be that the agency would account for its operations under Bill C-377, should it become law, in its estimates after the bill becomes law. That is a common practice with respect to any proposed legislation that has not yet been enacted. The supplementary estimates argument advanced by those hon. members is really a red herring in this entire debate.

Should Bill C-377 become law, the authority to spend for the purposes set out in the bill will be under the general authority of existing broader provisions of the Income Tax Act as well as the agency's general authorities under the Canada Revenue Agency Act. Should additional funds be required, the government would seek them from Parliament as part of the supply cycle through an appropriations bill in the ordinary manner for operating expenses.

I respectively submit that Bill C-377 does not require a royal recommendation and is properly before the House.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2008 / 7:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate. There being no further members rising, pursuant to order made earlier today, the motion to concur in the seventh report of the Standing committee on Canadian Heritage, recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-327, is deemed adopted on division.

(Motion agreed to)

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2008 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to add my voice to the debate on the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The report essentially recommends that the House not proceed further with Bill C-327.

Bill C-327 proposes to introduce tougher regulations to regulate violence in television broadcasts. I will read the salient portion of the bill, which happens to be section 10.1(1). It states:

The Commission shall make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes, including those contained in programs intended for persons under the age of 12 years.

Although this was promoted as a bill that would protect children against TV violence, the actual wording within the legislation was much broader than that. It would give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the power to institute regulations that would essentially censor violent programs on television.

Members of committee devoted a great deal of time to hearing from witnesses on the issue of media violence. Almost without exception, they gave the same clear message, and that was while well intentioned, the bill was not the right vehicle to address violence on television. In fact, it just simply was not going to work.

I want to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for bringing the bill forward. I share his underlying motives in addressing this issue. We all want to see violence on television decrease, especially where it relates to children's programming.

When I first heard about the bill, my first response was that I could support it. Why would anyone not support a reduction in violence in children's programming on television, except perhaps those who profit from it? However, as I looked more closely at the legislation, I realized it was deeply flawed.

What would the bill do? As I mentioned, it would give the CRTC broad new regulatory authority to make regulations on violent programming on television.

What did the committee determine after it had listened to the witnesses? The witnesses gave evidence that even though studies showed there was a connection between TV violence and the acting out of violent acts in society, there was a similar body of evidence that seemed to contradict it. In other words, the jury is still out as to whether there is a connection between TV violence and violence in our society. I tend to agree with those who say there is a connection, but the evidence before committee was not clear. It was ambiguous.

Some witnesses also raised the issue of censorship. The proponent of the bill went to great lengths to try to show that this was not about censorship, but virtually every witness who appeared before us, when directly asked by myself and others on the committee, said that it was a form of censorship.

Some of the concerns they raised centred around where would we stop. Are we no longer allowed to see boxing on TV, or programs such as 24, or Prison Break or even ice hockey, because ice hockey sometimes has fights? Is that too violent? We get into that whole discussion.

We already have restrictions on violence in Canada. The Criminal Code outlines what types of violent acts shown in broadcast programs are unacceptable. Beyond that, the CRTC has not interfered in what is shown on TV because TV broadcasters themselves have adopted their own code and standards of broadcasting, which address violence on TV.

We see warnings on TV telling viewers that a violent program is coming up, or the program is going to include adult content. Those warnings are there as a result of the industry agreeing to comply with its own code. There are those who say that is only a voluntary set of standards. In fact, it is not voluntary, even though the word voluntary is used. The conditions of licence require broadcasters to comply with that code.

What is really remarkable is that we did something in committee that we do not do too often. We invited children to address us and to share their views on television violence. They came up with some interesting information. First, they talked about the changing face of media, such things as the Internet, podcasting and personal video recorders. These are technologies that allow children and adults to view broadcast material in many different ways. They also talked about the multichannel universe, the 500 channel universe, where someone in Vancouver could be watching television during family hour, say at 7 o'clock in the evening, and they could be watching a program that is being broadcast in eastern Canada during hours when adult programming would be shown.

They also talked about the V-chip and, remarkably, none of the children at the committee said that their parents had ever invested or installed a V-chip on their televisions. They also talked about how little parental supervision there really was over what they watched on TV or viewed on the Internet.

When we collectively took the information that came from the witnesses, there was a very clear consensus that further regulation and censorship of TV would not work. It was not that there are limitations that might be suitable. The problem is that with a changing technological environment, those limitations are almost useless, because children view their programming in many different ways that are not subject to restrictions.

We also heard that when parents closely supervise what their children watch on TV, those children give more thought about the programs they watch. I can speak from personal experience. I am the father of four daughters. As they were growing up, we were very involved in their lives. We would not allow them to play video games. It was just a choice we made. We invested in music lessons. The same applied to TV.

We made sure that whatever they watched on television or whatever videos they watched were appropriate to their age. We intervened in their lives and I believe their lives today reflect that. I encourage parents to take responsibility for their children because, ultimately, it is not the government, not the nanny state, that is responsible for children. It is not teachers and it is not the media literacy groups. It is parents themselves who have the best opportunity of intervening and protecting their children against violent programming that they should not be watching.

What are the solutions? I have already mentioned media literacy groups. These are groups in our society who actually teach children and parents about some of the strategies that they can employ to ensure the programming their children watch is wholesome.

Parental involvement I have also mentioned and ensuring we engage in the lives of our children. The V-chip is modern technology that we can use to ensure that violent programming is not brought into our homes where our children would be exposed to it.

We also have the role of the broadcasters. They already have a so-called voluntary code of conduct that addresses the whole issue of violence on television. From all accounts, that set of standards is working well.

The chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission also suggested a number of other things and the most important of those was the suggestion that our government introduce the right to impose administrative monetary penalties on those broadcasters who actually violate the standards that they have accepted as a condition of licence. We have accepted that as an excellent suggestion and we will be suggesting to the government that it move forward with introducing an intermediate set of administrative monetary penalties that will allow the commission to penalize those who actually do not follow the rules that are set for broadcasting violent programs on television.

That is why I support the committee's recommendation not to proceed with Bill C-327. It was not carefully thought out and it does amount to censorship. From the witness testimony, it was clear that it would not actually achieve the result that it was intended to achieve.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2008 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in the debate on the motion to concur in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, which is a recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

As we have heard, Bill C-327 was tabled by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie in response to a petition of over 1.5 million Canadians, a petition spearheaded and headed by Virginie Larivière, a 13-year-old girl who was concerned about the role of television violence in the rape and murder of her younger sister. She gathered those petitions and presented them to the Mulroney government back a number of years ago.

The petition expressed the concern of over a million Canadians about the effects of violence on television in our society. This is clearly a very strong opinion about the circumstances and that issue. Members of Parliament needed to take that expression of concern very seriously. That is exactly what the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie did when he proposed this private member's bill. He did absolutely the right thing in putting forward a serious attempt to address that issue raised by so many Canadians.

Unfortunately, there were problems identified with the bill as proposed. The most serious problem members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage faced, after listening to testimony from many organizations and individuals, was that many witnesses saw this bill as giving the CRTC the power to censor television programing in Canada. This was seen a inappropriate by most of the witnesses and the members of the committee. It was a power that the CRTC should not have in the opinion of most of us, and I agree.

I have heard the concerns expressed around censorship and the freedom of cultural expression. Many of those have been raised recently regarding the Canadian film and video tax credit in the provisions of Bill C-10, which include a very broad possibility of the Minister of Canadian Heritage using guidelines to deny film and video tax credit based on personal sensibilities about what is appropriate film or video production in Canada. We have seen a great outcry from the cultural and arts community about that aspect of the bill.

We were very aware in the committee of that context of Bill C-10 and it was clear that we could not proceed with the provisions of Bill C-327 as they were presented.

There were also concerns that disputed some of the evidence presented in support of Bill C-327, including the way the numbers were used to compare the number of acts of violence in the Laval study, which my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has cited. It was also clear that television violence was only one source of violence today that Canadians and children faced. The Internet and video games were also very major sources of very violent programming and violence to which children and adults were exposed.

Therefore, for those reasons, I support the concurrence motion that we should not proceed with Bill C-327 as it was originally presented and as it cleared the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

However, I want to point out that it became clear to me, as we worked on the bill in committee, there was the possibility for amending it to fully remove the censorship provisions and instead stress the further development of broadcast codes and media literacy education commitments. It was clear there were serious concerns in Canadian society related to violence on television and its effect on adults and children in our society.

It also became clear that media literacy education was an important approach to dealing with the concerns, an approach that deserved stronger support from government, the CRTC and broadcasters. Many organizations do that excellent work, and we heard from quite a number of them. We should ensure there is expanded access by adults, children, parents and educators to the work on media literacy and media awareness done by those organizations.

It also became clear that the development by broadcasters of codes of ethics, broadcast codes, programming standards, classification systems and related complaint mechanisms should be enshrined in the Broadcasting Act. I appreciate that private broadcasters have developed those codes, voluntarily originally. Now through the auspices of the CRTC it is more mandatory, but they belong in the Broadcasting Act.

We should also put into the act that such codes should be developed in consultation with government, the CRTC, cultural workers, media unions, media literacy and media awareness organizations, advocacy groups and interested individuals, among others, that such codes and classification systems should be formally reviewed every five years, comprehensively, independently and publicly, and that further analysis of the connections between the depiction of violence and violence in society should be part of the mandate of the CRTC and broadcasters, as should media literacy education and media awareness education for Canadians of all ages.

I proposed amendments that would do exactly those things, that would add all those aspects to Bill C-327 as originally proposed. I had an indication from the chair that my amendments would be seen as being in order.

I also had clear support for my amendments from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, one of the groups that most clearly stated its concern and its opposition to the original bill because of what it saw as censorship provisions in the bill. It supported my amendments because it was clear that I had removed effectively all the censorship provisions from the bill.

Sadly, the Conservatives and Liberals on the committee would not even consider these amendments and then decided to recommend that the bill be abandoned without any discussion or debate on the amendments, which I had worked on, proposed and brought to the committee.

That was a serious disappointment. When we have the opportunity to consider private members' legislation at committee, we should go the whole way on that consideration. When members bring forward amendments to legislation before a committee, the committee should hear those amendments and have discussion on them. Sadly, that was short-circuited by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in this regard.

I would not have been able to support Bill C-327 as it was originally proposed and now as it returns to the House. That is why I support the motion before us today that the bill be abandoned, that we not proceed with the bill.

However, there was something valuable in the proposal from the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. We could have rescued the bill and found in it, with some amendments such as the ones I proposed, something that would be worthwhile for Canadians and that would serve us well in the long run, something that merited more discussion. We should have debated it more thoroughly in committee at the end of our considerations.

However, given now that the only option before us is the original form of the bill, sadly I have to concur with the full committee that we should not proceed with the legislation, given the very serious problems.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2008 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament and a father of two young children aged 12 and 15, I want to begin by commending and congratulating my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie on his efforts. This is a typical case of a commendable initiative that does not meet the required goals in practice. A number of reasons have been given, and I agree with them. In any event, the Liberal Party of Canada will accept this report for all the reasons that have already been given.

We are parliamentarians. The testimony we have heard indicates that everyone agrees with the principle as such. We therefore need to work together to set guidelines that will enable us to reduce violence and help our young people grow and develop in a healthy environment.

We are already debating Bill C-10 with regard to film production. There will be a debate on freedom of expression, control and so on. Looking strictly at Bill C-327, we can see that it is a commendable initiative whose goals were appropriate and certainly relevant. However, these goals would not be achieved in practice.

I also agree that we should have agencies such as the CRTC and self-regulation. Our committee is working very hard to give the CRTC the necessary tools and to give it more teeth, making a cause and effect link to ensure that when there are abuses or deficiencies on the part of the broadcasters, there can be, through the Broadcasting Act, cause and effect links and actions taken accordingly.

Unfortunately, this bill, in light of everything we have done, is becoming obsolete. That is why, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1 we recommended that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill. That does not mean that nothing was done, but that exhaustive work had already been done.

I will not get into a political debate on the Conservatives, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc. All of us are either good parents or extremely aware of the relevance and importance of reducing violence. I am one of those who believes that it is not our role to regulate. That would lead us to a society where there is room for the arbitrary and possible censorship. How far will this go? I agree that there needs to be some structure and that we need to give agencies such as the CRTC the necessary tools to move from talk to action.

The work was comprehensive in scope. The member did a fine job, and he will be disappointed today. It is sad when a private member's bill does not pass. However, I would like to congratulate him because he contributed to moving this issue forward. He can tell his constituents and little Virginie Larivière that he did his job well, and that we all worked on this. Quite often, when our work entails creating legislation, we can have laudable objectives and present excellent proposals but, in terms of implementation, the situation as a whole must also be taken into consideration. Perhaps this is not the best approach. We did not move backwards, however. We continue to move forward. All of the members from the various parties contributed based on their own values and experiences. They shared their points of view.

It is also important to take time to read the whereas clauses.

Thus, we can see that we are all aiming at the same goal. I think that putting in all those “whereas” clauses provides the proper environment so people can understand that we have been doing our homework and that we are aiming at the same goal. However, as for the application itself, which is the legislation, we felt that in our case the Liberal Party of Canada could not proceed further.

We believe, and it is unanimous, in supporting freedom of expression, including everything regarding the media, film and television. As a start, it is important to talk about that.

Also, we believe that it is important to note the number of witnesses that came before the committee. It is not that we are deciding this in a partisan way. We have been doing our homework. We took the time to listen to the witnesses, including the children who came to tell us in their own way, with their own words, through their own experience, and with their own expertise what the application of Bill C-327 means. I think that is important to mention. I am a parent myself. There is always a need to relate that goal to education, to media literacy and clearly to parental engagement.

It was interesting when we had a little turmoil in putting together the motion, but everyone had the opportunity to put forward their words and explain clearly what they meant. I think the motion itself reflects that we have been doing a great job among ourselves.

Therefore, I truly believe that because it is the wrong means to achieve the goal, and because we believe in the goal, the Liberal Party of Canada, through Standing Order 97.1, will recommend that the House of Commons not proceed further with Bill C-327.

For all of these reasons, and for the work done by all of the members, I must say that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage did a fine job. I did not feel a blind partisanship as I have felt in other committees. We work well in that way. Again, I congratulate my Bloc Québécois colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, and I would like to thank all of my colleagues. It is clear that we must accept this report as presented.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2008 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage presented April 9, 2008 should be accepted. The report recommends that the House not proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

Violence in society is an issue of profound concern to every Canadian and is of concern to this government in particular.

First, I do want to thank the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his efforts to bring this bill before Parliament, not just in this session, but also in previous sessions.

The issue of violence in society has been a priority for this government. We continue to address it through initiatives to tackle crime. The age of protection, the age of sexual consent, has been raised from 14 to 16. People accused of gun crimes must now show why they should be on the streets while awaiting trial. There are tough new mandatory minimum penalties for those who commit serious gun crimes.

The tabling of Bill C-327 gave us an opportunity to have a constructive dialogue and to consider our accomplishments in Canada in limiting violence on television and in other media, particularly as it concerns children. It also gave the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage the opportunity to hear from a diverse group of witnesses and gain a better understanding of the best approach to address the issue.

Bill C-327 would amend the Broadcasting Act to add as a policy objective “to contribute to solving the problem of violence in society by reducing violence in the programming offered to the public, including children”, and would mandate the CRTC to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes.

During the second reading debate, the government explained that the Broadcasting Act already contains the necessary policy objectives and regulatory powers for the CRTC to deal with the issue of violence in broadcasting. It already makes broadcasters responsible for the programs they air and requires their programming to be of high standard.

The Broadcasting Act sets out a number of objectives for the broadcasting system. Central among these objectives is that the system should serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada.

The Broadcasting Act also provides that all persons who are licensed to broadcast programs on television have a responsibility for what they air and that all programming originated by broadcasting undertakings should be of high standard.

Furthermore, the act states that the broadcasting system should encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity. In this regard the respect for the freedom of expression of creators and the provision of choice for Canadian audiences are key principles.

Our approach to the reduction of violence in television is one that balances freedom of expression and regulation where necessary, but not necessarily one of increased regulation.

We have systems and industry codes in place, including a code on violence that upholds societal norms of decency and integrity. The current approach gives Canadians the tools to make informed program choices for themselves and their families.

Canadians who have concerns over programming can make a complaint with the CRTC or the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an independent non-governmental organization which administers programming standards, including the code on violence. Both the CRTC and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council have a rigorous review process in place to investigate complaints.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank members of the committee who worked on this private member's bill, especially for taking time to hear from more than a dozen witnesses and for conducting such a thorough review of the bill.

Violence on television is a sensitive issue and one that concerns us all. The committee heard from key representatives from the CRTC, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, media literacy organizations, teacher organizations, as well as advocacy and civil liberty groups. The committee also heard from children ranging in age who talked openly and honestly about their television viewing habits and their use of the Internet.

The key question we ask ourselves is this: will Bill C-327 achieve the goal of reducing violence in society, particularly as it relates to children?

What we found is that although there was broad support for the goal of reducing violence in society, almost all of the witnesses felt that Bill C-327 was not the right means for achieving that goal. Almost all believed that the regulatory measures contemplated by the bill would not be effective.

We heard that the CRTC already has the powers to make regulations concerning broadcasting of violent scenes and it has done so by requiring as a condition of license that broadcasters adhere to codes regarding violence on television. These codes were developed by the industry in consultation with Canadians and are designed to protect viewers from content they may find to not be to their wishes.

We also heard that the number of complaints concerning violent programming is generally low. From many of the witnesses, we heard that they were concerned with the potential for violations of free expression by the delegation to the CRTC of the power to make regulations respecting broadcasting violent content. We were reminded that Bill C-327 is directed toward the public, not exclusively toward children.

Some witnesses also talked about the difficulty in identifying the root cause of violent behaviour. As evidenced in the preamble, the bill presupposes a relationship between violence on television and violence in society.

However, whether there is a clear causal link between the two remains very much in dispute. There are everyday realities that we as a society must face, one being that we live in a society that unfortunately experiences violence.

The committee heard from many witnesses about the need for education, media literacy and parental engagement. They explained that media education and the fostering of media literacy skills in young people are key elements in any effective strategy to teach children how to be critical and thoughtful about the media they consume.

In contrast, we heard directly from children that they watch virtually anything they want, whether it is on television or the Internet. They questioned the effectiveness of wanting to regulate what they watch on television. With modern technology such as satellite television, digital cable and the Internet, they are able to access content from across Canada and the United States and, for that matter, all over the world.

The proposed bill has a limited ability to deal with these other potential sources of violent content. Therefore, we need to focus on encouraging parents to become more involved in the media choices their children make. We learned that kids and adolescents whose parents supervise their TV viewing and Internet usage are more likely to be aware of the negative impact of media violence.

I must tell members that just today the CRTC appeared before the standing committee to discuss administrative money penalties in testimony today. In regard to these AMPs, as they are known, we are now at the beginning of a process in which the committee is going to undertake to assist in giving a report on the efficacy and advisability of AMPs. The minister is looking forward to that report from the committee.

We are all deeply committed to the safety of our children and want less violence in our society. I do thank the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for bringing this issue forward. However, witnesses convinced the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that Bill C-327 is the wrong means to achieve the goal and would not serve Canadians in the long term.

I would therefore at this time encourage all members to accept the report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage which recommends that the House of Commons not proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2008 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today to debate the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

This report raised a number of debates in committee, but basically, it can be summarized by the following text:

Therefore, be it resolved that this Committee, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, recommends that the House of Commons do not proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts) and that the Chair present the report to the House.

Before I explain what led the committee to adopt the report, I would first like to explain what motivated me, as a parliamentarian, to introduce Bill C-327. Why did I introduce this bill? I would remind the House that, in November 1992, a 13-year-old girl by the name of Virginie Larivière presented a petition signed by 1.5 million Canadians to the Canadian government, calling for legislation to reduce violence on television.

At the time, the images spoke volumes. The young girl presented the Conservative government, headed by Brian Mulroney, with a proper petition signed by 1.5 million Canadians. What did the government do then? It decided to accept a voluntary code governing violence on television, to trust radio and television broadcasters. Television broadcasters who signed on to the code committed to not broadcasting programs with scenes of gratuitous violence, to not exposing children to inappropriate programs, and to informing viewers of the content of the programs they chose to watch.

The voluntary code adopted by television broadcasters was the subject of an in-depth study at the time by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. In June 1993, the committee determined that if the voluntary approach proposed to television broadcasters did not work—and it was failing to achieve the goal of reducing violence on television—Parliament should seriously consider legislation.

Now, 15 years later, 15 years after the voluntary code for television broadcasters was introduced, where are we?

The Université de Laval's media studies centre looked at this issue. The latest study available was released in 2004. The media studies centre no longer has the funding to do its work because the federal government decided to cut funding for researchers studying and analyzing programming. Nevertheless, the study found that over 10 years, violence had increased by 286%, 81% of depictions of violence on television were broadcast before 9 p.m., not after peak viewing hours for children, and 29% of movie violence was psychological in nature.

Over the past few years, violence on television has changed. We are seeing proportionally less physical violence and more psychological violence. Numerous studies have shown that the violence to which our children are regularly exposed in movies, and sometimes even in television dramas, influences their behaviour.

The report by Dr. Rudel-Tessier as a result of her coroner's inquest into the death of an 11-year-old boy on December 31, 2005, is still fresh in people's minds. In her report, the coroner described Simon's story.

—Simon [was] a lively, healthy boy with a bit of a sense of adventure. On December 30, 2005, at around 7:00 p.m., Simon and his father decided to watch the movie The Patriot on television.

As the report indicates:

The plans of Simon and his father to watch the movie together changed when an unexpected visitor arrived. The child started to watch the movie alone, and his father promised that he would come and join him. At around 8:10 p.m., the boy was found hanging from the ceiling with The Patriot still playing on the television. The movie was rated “13 and over with violence” in Canada.

According to the coroner [Dr. Rudel-Tessier], there was nothing to indicate that the boy had committed suicide. She said that he had almost certainly been trying to play out a scene from the film shown at 7:34 p.m. where the hero's oldest son is brought by soldiers to be hung from a tree. According to the coroner, Simon may also have been influenced by another scene, which was shown at 8:01 p.m.

Finally, she questioned whether the film should have been shown in the evening, at 7:00 p.m. This example proves that we must establish regulations to reduce violence on television. The voluntary code did not stop a major network from broadcasting Striking Distance, on August 7, 2007, at 8 p.m.; it is rated “18 years and over with violence and coarse language.” Another movie, Cradle 2 The Grave , was shown on September 12, 2007 at 8 p.m.; it is rated “14 years and over with scenes of violence and coarse language.” I believe it is time to take action.

I would remind members that, in June 1993, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Communications and Culture concluded that the self-regulation approach needed to be given a chance. I quote:

However, the committee did agree that if that approach did not work, legislation would need to be considered.

That is the spirit behind Bill C-327. The bill before you today would require the CRTC to adopt regulations to limit—and I emphasize, to limit—and not to prohibit violence on television; to monitor compliance by broadcast licence holders with their obligations concerning violence; to sanction those that violate the rules; and to hold hearings every five years to assess the results of this approach.

The attitude of the government and the Liberal Party of Canada, who refused to study the amendments proposed by the NDP that would improve the bill, is deplorable. In my opinion, in a democratic debate, when a bill is studied by a parliamentary committee, members on the committee must have the opportunity to present and consider amendments.

I would like to thank the NDP member who will speak today for deciding to work on this bill. I would like to say today that it is important and that we will vote—

May 13th, 2008 / 5 p.m.
See context

Executive Director, Broadcasting, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Scott Hutton

What we proposed in Bill C-327 is certainly lesser than what we have under the Telecommunications Act. The primary reason, as indicated earlier, is that in the Broadcasting Act there are criminal provisions that are set at certain levels. They're set higher for telecom. A case in point is that revenues are higher in telecom than in broadcasting, so we have to go one step back from that.

May 13th, 2008 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Executive Director, Broadcasting, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Scott Hutton

We want to add AMPs to our other methods, not to replace them. I do not think that we will back down or be less insistent. It is an additional method.

I am going to make an analogy with what you have just said. We have a penalty for murder, but not for shoplifting. We do not have this sort of penalty, and that is what we are seeking. The last time we discussed bill C-327, we suggested a maximum penalty of $200,000 for a first infraction and $400,000 for a second one. These are pretty hefty amounts.

May 13th, 2008 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

I'd like to deal with administrative monetary penalties. That issue came up in the context of Bill C-327, which was Mr. Bigras' bill. This committee didn't support his bill, but it certainly did support a call to provide you with the power to levy administrative penalties where they're required as an intermediary remedy.

Are there other contexts in which you could see these being very helpful in addressing the issues you deal with at the commission?

May 13th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. von Finckenstein, on the matter of the AMPs, you reminded us that when you appeared before the committee in March, as we were looking at Bill C-327...which I gather we might be disposing of today, perhaps, in the House if the recommendation is carried. You put on the table the matter of AMPs. I recall asking you at the time if the CRTC had ever presented such a request to the government and was turned down.

I don't know whether you recall that.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 14th, 2008 / 5 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before moving on to questions and comments, I would like to inform the House that under the provisions of Standing Order 97.1(2) I am designating Tuesday, May 13, as the day fixed for the consideration of the motion to concur in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The report contains a recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

The motion shall be debated for one hour immediately after private members' business on that day, after which the House will proceed to the adjournment debate pursuant to Standing Order 38.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 9th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in relation to Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

April 8th, 2008 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Chair, I cannot have my cake and eat it too. As my NDP colleague has rightly said, we should not report to the House and drop clause-by-clause consideration just because I want more information. I understand everyone's sensibilities.

I ask my colleague Mr. Bigras not to take this personally. I am a parent myself and I have been in the House for 11 years. No one here has a monopoly on the truth. Nevertheless, I am persuaded by the arguments of my colleague, Mr. Abbott. As I have said from the outset, BillC-10 is a problem for me because it has implications on the content of audiovisual productions. However, I defer to the arguments made by Mr. Abbott and by other colleagues. We can remove my "whereas" sections that refer to Bill C-327. I concur with that entirely. I can even, if he wishes, withdraw my proposals and endorse his. I have no problem with that.

If my NDP colleague wanted to propose amendments...In fact, the media themselves may have legitimate and valid concerns about the idea. We are playing with broadcast times. Parents also have a responsibility for the way in which their children watch television. I also understand that the government, with its regulatory power, has a responsibility here too.

So I defer to my colleagues' arguments. As the NDP, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, our duty was to study a bill for the House in its context. We have done our homework. Witnesses have appeared and people have done a fine job. The principles remain, except that as we do this study, we realize that Standing Order 97.1 can be applied. We feel that the Chair does not have to report to the House and that, in the light of everything we have done, we should stop work immediately. This is why I agree completely with the amendment. I will remove all the "whereases" that I proposed.

I would like to remind you that, at the outset, I said that, in my book, as Stan, the great coach in Les Boys might say, the motion was "be it therefore". But for reasons provided by the clerk, I came to understand that we also needed to give clear reasons to justify invoking Standing Order 97.1.

That is what I had to say, Mr. Chair.

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

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.

March 6th, 2008 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for appearing here today.

We're studying a bill here today called Bill C-327, whose purpose is to reduce violence on TV. So this obviously touches on the issue of censorship and the like. On the other hand, we also live in a liberal democracy in which a fundamental principle is that citizens are free to act as they so wish and are free to express themselves as they so wish, provided that this expression or those acts do not harm others or harm others in a way that's unacceptable to society at large.

So we have free expression in this country. That being said, this free expression is limited by libel and slander laws, by the potential harm this expression could cause to others, and so on. There is a lot of jurisprudence around this regarding books and film. Over the years, the Supreme Court's interpretation of this area of law has evolved from one of meeting a community standard involving public decency and public morality to one involving harm--the harm test--whereby what is acceptable or not acceptable is decided on the basis of whether the materials cause harm to others. My question concerns this harm test.

Now, we're studying the issue of television in this bill. Television is satellite, cable; it's not the same as books and film. Books and film are in the private domain, and television and cable and satellite are in the public domain, but I think there are parallels between the jurisprudence that has been developed in the Supreme Court's rulings on books and film and what goes on in television.

So my question for the panellists is whether you can point this committee to any empirically based studies that have been undertaken that make definitive links between violence on TV and harm to others in society.

Mr. Chair, through you, could we start with Madam Wing and hear her response on that?

March 6th, 2008 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Cathy Wing Co-Executive Director, Media Awareness Network

Thank you.

My name is Cathy Wing. I'm the co-executive director of the Media Awareness Network, Réseau Éducation-Médias.

I'm very pleased to be here today to present this submission to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage as it debates Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act.

We laud the motivation behind this bill protecting the health and the well-being of Canadian children. And we welcome this opportunity to illustrate the critical role that media education plays in supporting the healthy development of children, and in giving Canadian citizens—adults and children—the tools they need to effectively manage media content issues.

Media violence is an issue that educators, broadcasters, parents, and academics have been debating for many years in this country. Throughout this long-standing debate, media education and the fostering of media literacy skills in young people have always been recognized as key elements in any effective strategy to address the issue.

Indeed, the CRTC's 1996 public notice on TV violence stated that although industry codes, classification systems, and technology would play a role, public awareness and media literacy programs represented most of the solution to the issue.

Our organization was born out of a CRTC round table on TV violence in 1995. It was initially formed under the auspices of the National Film Board of Canada. Since that time this national, bilingual, not-for-profit education organization has firmly established itself nationally and internationally as a leading centre in media education. Since our inception we've been fortunate to have had the long-standing support of Canadian media industries and the Government of Canada, both through financial contributions and participation on our board of directors.

Our vision is to ensure that Canadian children and youth possess the necessary critical thinking skills and tools to understand and actively engage with media.

Belief in the importance of media literacy in the education of young people is growing in this country. It is now a mandated area of curriculum in every province and territory, and our resources and programs are used in every jurisdiction in Canada by school boards, faculties of education, libraries, and community organizations.

Young people today often are spending more time interacting with media than they are in school. When they're using media—watching television, listening to music on their iPods, surfing the web—they're absorbing a large part of their knowledge about the world and themselves and others. And this informal learning is generally taking place without critical reflection or guidance.

For this reason, it is essential that young people are taught critical thinking skills in order to be thoughtful and engaged users of all media. A media-literate individual has the critical thinking skills to interpret and value media content and to understand media's cultural, political, commercial, and social implications.

One of the primary lessons of media education is that media productions are not reality, but they are deliberate constructions and the result of a series of choices. Media education encourages young people to consider the role of violence in media. Is it essential to the plot of a movie? Is it factored in just for drama or excitement? What are the differences between real-world violence and media violence? Is the violence shown to have realistic consequences or does it trivialize the psychological and physical trauma of real-life violence? How is it used to sell films to international audiences? What is the role of violence in news programming? What are the impacts on society? And how do factors such as age, gender, race, religion, and cultural background affect how we interpret violent media?

The media education curriculum also teaches students that they have a voice and a role to play as active media consumers who can talk to the entertainment industries and express their opinions through the mechanisms we have in place in Canada to address media content issues.

There is a body of research emerging that is examining media literacy as a health promotion strategy. Several studies point to its effectiveness in mitigating potential negative media influences on the physical and mental well-being of children and youth. For example, research has indicated that media literacy lessons incorporated into standard curriculum can help reduce potentially harmful effects of TV violence on very young viewers.

One U.S. study of third and fourth graders who were given a course in media literacy decreased their time spent watching TV, playing video games, and reduced their use of verbal and physical aggression as judged by their peers.

Another study of a year-long media literacy curriculum found children in early grades watched less violent TV and identified less with aggressive characters after the intervention.

Other studies have concluded that media literacy can help high-risk youth develop more responsible decision-making skills. An evaluation of a media literacy intervention program implemented by the Massachusetts juvenile justice system showed that learning to deconstruct media messages helped juvenile offenders think critically about the consequences of risky behaviours and helped them develop strategies to resist these impulses.

Helping to support the healthy development of children and youth through the acquisition of media literacy skills has become more critical than ever as our young people turn to the Internet as their main source of entertainment, information, and communications.

Our media environment has changed considerably since Canada's broadcasting initiatives were introduced to address TV violence. The convergence of media platforms and the availability of wireless communications technologies mean that rating and classification systems and legislation and industry codes and guidelines are no longer enough to protect children, particularly as they increasingly use the Internet to access video games, television, movies, and music.

We were born at the same time as the World Wide Web and we've grown with the Internet. We've watched its potential being realized and we've monitored the risks and concerns associated with its use. It was clear from the start that the Internet would bring new challenges to many of the media issues of concern we were dealing with, particularly media violence.

In 2005 we conducted a national survey of more than 5,200 Canadian students about their Internet use. One-third of kids' favourite websites contained violent content, and 34% of Grade 9 boys said they had visited a violent gore site on purpose. New research from anti-racism organizations shows that violent and hateful content is growing in interactive web environments such as social networking sites and user-generated video sites.

In this new media landscape where our young people are moving beyond geographic and regulatory borders to access media content, responsibility for protecting children is shifting to individual households, schools, and communities. There is no question that media violence is and will continue to be an area of concern to Canadians, as evidenced by the proposed legislation from the honourable member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. As media violence continues to be debated in our public institutions, Media Awareness Network encourages all Canadians to support the practice of media literacy as a key response to media content issues of concern.

Thank you.

March 4th, 2008 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

It's not in haste. In the time it took you to challenge the chair, we could have had it done. That's how long it's going to take.

As chair, I would like to move that the committee adopt a budget in the amount of $8,650 for its study on Bill C-327, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act in regard to reduction of violence in television broadcasts.

(Motion agreed to)

March 4th, 2008 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. von Finckenstein, for being here with us this afternoon to discuss Bill C-327 and its consequences. In your opening statement, you said that the code adopted by broadcasters had been vetted and approved by your organization. You also indicated that the code contained a provision against the broadcasting of scenes of violence intended for a mature audience before 9 p.m.

When you receive a complaint concerning that specific aspect of the code, how do you determine whether a show contains scenes of violence intended for a mature audience? Are there regulations concerning that definition per se?

March 4th, 2008 / 5 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Thank you very much.

I'd like to thank all of you for appearing before our committee, and also to commend Monsieur Bigras for his noble intentions in putting his bill forward again.

Mr. von Finckenstein, in your mind, in the opinion of the CRTC, is Bill C-327 simply redundant given the rules system already in place by the CRTC and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council?

March 4th, 2008 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Konrad W. von Finckenstein Chair, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I thank the committee for inviting us to express our views on Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

The principle aim of the bill, as we understand it, is to contribute to solving the problem of violence in society by reducing violence in the programming offered to the public, including children.

We assume by “solving”, the bill means that violence should not be glorified or depicted too graphically. By “reducing”, we assume the bill means restricting the most graphic and inappropriate portrayals of violence to time periods when children are unlikely to be watching television.

Given these interpretations of the key terms, we regard the aims of the bill as entirely laudable. These aims are ours as well.

However, it is important to remember that the CRTC does not mandate or dictate programming, but rather ensures that it conforms to the objectives of the Broadcasting Act. In particular, the act states that programming should be of a high standard, respectful of equality rights and reflective of Canadian values.

In pursuing these objectives, the act also directs the CRTC to respect freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The system we now have in place to deal with these issues is a collaborative one that relies largely on self-regulation by the industry in accordance with an obligatory code on violence. This code was developed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and approved by the CRTC. In addition, the CRTC holds the authority to serve as a final arbiter on these issues when required.

Today I will focus on the enforcement of programming standards on violence. I would like to take you briefly through the process to show you how the system works when a complaint is made.

First, the CRTC requires all broadcasters to adhere to a code on violence as a condition of licence. However, it suspends this obligation as long as a broadcaster is a member in good standing of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, the CBSC, and is therefore bound by the CAB code.

The complainant may bring the issue to the broadcaster or the CRTC. If one of the private broadcasters is involved and that broadcaster is a member in good standing of the CBSC, the complaint may be brought directly to the CBSC, or it is forwarded by the commission to the CBSC, if it comes to us.

The CBSC is an independent organization established by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters with the approval of the CRTC. Once such a complaint is made, the council will determine whether an infraction of the CAB's violence code has occurred.

This is a code that the CRTC regards as an important standard, and its terms provide a framework that is used across all sectors of the industry. Among other things: it prohibits gratuitous violence; it requires that viewer advisories accompany programs with violent content, i.e., the verbal warnings that indicate the nature of the content; it requires broadcasters to display a rating that informs parents of the suitable age groups for the programs; it establishes a watershed hour, such that depictions of violence intended for adult audiences must be broadcast after 9 p.m.; and it sets out detailed restrictions on the portrayal of violence in children's programs.

A private broadcaster who is found to have violated the code must acknowledge the violation with an announcement on the air and must provide the council with evidence that this has been done. If violations of the same kind have occurred more than three times, the broadcaster is required to show within 30 days why they should remain a member in good standing of the CBSC.

When the complaint concerns a public broadcaster such as the CBC, an educational broadcaster, or a broadcaster who is not a member in good standing of the CBSC, it is the CRTC that will hear the complaint. The commission will also hear any complaint in cases where the complainant is not satisfied with the resolution provided by the CBSC.

If the CRTC finds that a violation has occurred, it will issue a public decision to that effect, and this goes on the record of the licensee. Such decisions may be considered when the broadcaster's licence comes up for renewal. Measures, even severe ones, can be imposed at that time. That's the principal difference: with CBSC, it is corrected; with us, not only is it corrected, but it goes on the record and will be considered at the time of renewal.

I have taken you through the enforcement process as it is today so that you may understand our reaction to the bill before you.

We have no problems with clauses 1 and 2 of the bill, given the interpretation I mentioned at the outset. We do, however, have reservations about clause 3, which would add two new sections, identified as 10.1 and 10.2, to the Broadcasting Act. These additions would require the commission to make regulations concerning violent scenes on television, including those in programming intended for children. It would also require the monitoring of compliance and the punishment of non-compliance according to law.

This is contrary to our regulatory approach. For us, it has become a high priority to use regulation as an instrument of policy only when regulation is necessary. That means we will regulate only when no other effective means is available to achieve the desired purpose. When we do regulate, it will be with smarter and lighter regulation.

We believe that the present system, based on industry self-regulation and adherence to obligatory codes, and backed up by the CRTC as the final arbiter, does provide an effective means to achieve the desired purpose. We therefore cannot support the provisions of Bill C-327 that call for prescriptive regulation in lieu of industry self-regulation backed up by conditions of licence.

We do, however, share the aims of this bill when it comes to effective enforcement of our policies governing content standards. For some time, we have felt the lack of a full range of penalties to deal with violations.

Our powers of enforcement would be both stronger and sharper if we were given the power to impose administrative monetary penalties, or AMPs. In other words, the commission should be able to fine a broadcaster for infractions. These fines would be proportionate to the offence. They would be large enough to hurt and serve as a deterrent.

The CRTC has such powers as a means of enforcement under the Telecommunications Act. It strikes us that it is equally needed in broadcasting. At the moment, the only penalties we can impose are either relatively light or excessively heavy. At the light end we have an on-air announcement required by the CBSC or a public decision rendered by the CRTC in response to a complaint. At the heavy end we can shorten the offender's term of licence at renewal time or deny renewal entirely. These are very blunt instruments; we need something in between. Those are the AMPs I mentioned.

If the committee so desires, you could have our legal staff draft the appropriate amendments to Bill C-327, which would replace the proposed sections 10.1 and 10.2 with a system of monetary penalties.

We note that the bill calls for the commission to review the new regulations after five years. Should the bill be enacted with the amendments we suggested, we would have no objection to undertaking such a review.

I thank you for giving me this opportunity to express our views, and we are ready to answer your questions.

March 4th, 2008 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

There are organizations responsible for issuing ratings. For instance, in Quebec there is the Régie du cinéma du Québec. It is comprised of various specialists who screen all films. It issues a classification based on its series of criteria. It is interesting to point out that what might be considered violent in the United States or cannot be viewed by people under the age of 17 can, in Canada, be seen by 13-year-olds. It really is open to interpretation. There is no definition. There are organizations that rate films, very well, but violence has yet to be defined. If Bill C-327 were to pass, that should be part of the debate. There has to be a debate on a regulatory framework. In my view, it would be a good idea to come up with a definition of violence.

March 4th, 2008 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

That is an excellent question. Indeed, there is a whole debate on the meaning of violence on television. it is difficult to reach a consensus. As I indicated, there are a number of definitions. One of them is from George Gerbner, a media specialist. Based on his research, he defines violence as “the act of injuring or killing someone or threat of injuring or killing someone.”

A study by the U.S. National Cable & Telecommunications Association considered violence to be: “Any overt depiction of the use of physical force—or the credible threat of such force—intended to physically harm an animate being or group of beings.”

There are several definitions, but there is no consensus on what violence is. I would like to see this committee initiate a social debate prior to the drafting of the regulations, if Bill C-327 were to pass. No, there is no definition. More specifically, there is no definition of psychological violence, simply because there has yet to be a study on the issue. As I mentioned, this is a new phenomenon that has yet to be analyzed. Yes, there are several definitions. But there is no consensus on the definition of physical violence, and even less so on that of psychological violence.

March 4th, 2008 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, Mr. Bigras, for having come here this afternoon to present Bill C-327, which was referred to us by the House of Commons further to its passing second reading.

Mr. Bigras, in your bill, are you attempting to define violence? Have you studied the definition of violence on television?

March 4th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Primarily, I suppose, it is because it is a condition of licence that they comply with the code. They cannot have a licence. They cannot broadcast these things.

However, I'd like to ask you very quickly, with regard to the terrible example—and we never minimize the death of children, and I take it as seriously as you do—of The Patriot , which happened to be on television, could that not have been on the television through a rental? Isn't the issue that the parent was not accompanying the child? Isn't that the real issue? If that is the real issue, what difference would Bill C-327 make? The child was not accompanied. It could have appeared on DVD or VHS. As it happened, it appeared on television, and the parent's decision to walk away was obviously something of a contributor. How does Bill C-327 make any difference? I don't understand.

March 4th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

We can indeed take the case of the Power Rangers, but we can also name other cartoons that have been broadcast which are just as violent. I must emphasize that there has been a progression and a gradual increase in the violence that is broadcast on the small screen.

I repeat: over the last few years, there has been an increase in physical violence. Now, violence is more and more psychological. We must tackle the new forms of violence that are completely different from the violence we saw a few years back.

What does Bill C-327 do? If the broadcasters' voluntary code allowed for the resolution of all of the difficulties, why would we not take that same code and use it to draft regulations? There is no impediment to doing that. If the code is legitimate within the framework of a voluntary approach, why would it not be so in the framework of a regulatory approach as is proposed in Bill C-327?

March 4th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Wouldn't you agree that if we take a look back to 1995, there was a particularly offensive violent program called the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, which was a program of some contention. Under the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council that you are referring to, the program disappeared as a result of the direction. Since that time, by the way, there has never been the reappearance of any program like that, nor have there been any complaints of that type.

How do you see that your Bill C-327 would improve on that?

March 4th, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Absolutely. Violence on television is probably the easiest kind of violence to regulate. The Internet is an open network that is accessible to everyone; its regulation will therefore be very difficult.

As a society, the message we would be sending if we pass Bill C-327 is that we hope to build a peaceful society in Quebec and in Canada, without violence, or discrimination, regardless of sex or origin. This is an important social message that Parliament can send through Bill C-327. The bill deserves to be improved, of course. I hope that there will be the broadest possible debate on the coming regulation.

March 4th, 2008 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Of course. We absolutely need to strike a balance between freedom of expression and the protection and best interest of our children. It is important not to limit freedom of expression, but we need to guarantee that our children have quality television.

To begin with, the bill does not specify what the regulations should be. It simply states that regulations concerning violence on television must be added to the Canadian Broadcasting Act. The regulations would be defined through public debate, in which parliamentarians could perhaps participate through the Committee on Canadian Heritage. Ideally, the draft regulations should be reviewed by parliamentarians.

Second, regarding appropriate broadcast times, there is no intent here to prohibit a given film from being broadcast. That must be very clear. To do so would be unconstitutional and a violation of people's freedom of expression. It simply says that the broadcast time must be appropriate. Would it be possible for films rated “13 years and over with violence” or “18 years and over with violence and coarse language” to be shown after prime time for children? Is that 9:00 p.m.? Is it 10:00 p.m.? That issue is still being debated. There needs to be a debate about it.

In my opinion, it is clear that the Canadian Broadcasting Act needs to have regulations in this area. That is the objective of Bill C-327.

March 4th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank the committee for allowing me to appear. I have prepared a short brief, which I have unfortunately not had time to translate, given the short lead time for today's meeting.

Colleagues, in November 1992, a 13-year-old girl named Virginie Larivière, who had just lost her sister in a heinous crime, submitted a petition to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney that was signed by over 1.5 million Canadians calling for legislation to reduce violence on television. At the time, this young girl's action provoked a great deal of public debate about the role of the government, broadcasters and parents in the face of the ubiquitous violence shown on the small screen.

The response from broadcasters and the CRTC was swift. A few months later, in 1993, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, brought in the Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming, which was developed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

By signing on to the code, private broadcasters in Canada publicly endorsed the following principles: that programming containing scenes with gratuitous violence not be broadcast; that young children not be exposed to programming that is not age-appropriate; and that viewers be informed of the content of programs that they choose to watch.

In June 1993, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Communications and Culture concluded that the self-regulation approach needed to be given a chance. However, the committee did agree that if that approach did not work, legislation would need to be considered.

Where are we 15 years on? An analysis done by Laval University's Media Study Centre in December 2004 indicated that the number of acts of physical violence on television had increased by 286% in 10 years, with 81% of those acts of violence occurring in programming beginning before 9:00 p.m. and 29% occurring in psychological films.

Of course, the figures can be presented in different ways, but it is clear that television violence is widespread to the point that it influences the behaviour of our young people. It has to be concluded that the voluntary approach used with broadcasters does not seem to have given the desired results 15 years after the voluntary code was adopted.

In Quebec, the report by Dr. Catherine Rudel-Tessier as a result of her coroner's inquest into the death of an 11-year-old boy on December 31, 2005, is still fresh in people's minds.

In her report, the coroner described Simon as a lively, healthy boy with a bit of a sense of adventure. On December 30, 2005, at around 7:00 p.m., Simon and his father decided to watch the movie The Patriot on television.

As the report indicates, the plans of Simon and his father to watch the movie together changed when an unexpected visitor arrived. The child started to watch the movie alone, and his father promised that he would come and join him. At around 8:10 p.m., the boy was found hanging from the ceiling with The Patriot still playing on the television. The movie was rated “13 and over with violence” in Canada.

According to the coroner, there was nothing to indicate that the boy had committed suicide. She said that he had almost certainly been trying to play out a scene from the film shown at 7:34 p.m. where the hero's oldest son is brought by soldiers to be hung from a tree. According to the coroner, Simon may also have been influenced by another scene, which was shown at 8:01 p.m.

Finally, she questioned whether the film should have been shown at 7:00 p.m.

Similarly, under the voluntary code, the French version of the movie Striking Distance was shown at 8:00 p.m. on a major network on August 16, 2006; it was rated “18 years and over with violence and coarse language” and the movie Cradle 2 the Grave was shown in its French version on September 12, 2007, at 8:00 p.m.; it is rated “14 years and over with scenes of violence and coarse language.”

I sincerely think that it is time to act.

I would remind you that, in 1993, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Communications and Culture, which is now the Committee on Canadian Heritage, concluded that self-regulation needed to be given a chance to work. However, the committee agreed that if that approach did not work, legislation would have to be considered. That is the spirit behind Bill C-327.

The bill before you today would require the CRTC to adopt regulations to limit violence on television, force it to monitor compliance by broadcast licence holders with their obligations concerning violence, and sanction those that violate the rules, as well as require it to hold hearings every five years to assess the results of this approach.

In closing, over 15 years after adoption of the voluntary approach, it is clearly time to take a regulatory approach. Our children and the teachers that work with them day-to-day deserve it.

Thank you very much.

March 4th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

I call to order meeting number 19 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 (reduction of violence in television broadcasts). We welcome Mr. Bigras.

Please give your opening statement, sir.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 15th, 2008 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

I am also pleased to present the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage with respect to copyright legislation.

February 14th, 2008 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Chair, there's an item of business that I think we have to consider. I would be happy to provide notice of motion, so we can deal with what I'm going to talk about here on Tuesday, except that I think we may have unanimous consent to deal with it without that formality.

This is the issue of Bill C-327, which has been referred to this committee. Bill C-327 might loosely be called “violence in television”. It is a motion of a Bloc member. It passed second reading. We are now reaching a point at which, if we do not have a 30-day extension, the bill will be referred back to the House unamended. Unless I'm mistaken, there was broad consensus that the issue is very important, that it's very important that we have witnesses and that we take a look at all of the ramifications of the bill.

Logically, because we have been time-constrained with the CBC consideration, we haven't gotten around to this bill. But according to my understanding of parliamentary procedure, if we do not have this extension, the bill would automatically be referred back to the House without amendment and the House will have to deal with it. I don't think that was the intent of the members of the House.

World Television DayStatements By Members

November 21st, 2007 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are celebrating World Television Day, as proclaimed by the UN in 1996 to encourage cultural and global exchanges of television programs with a focus on peace, security and social development.

Bill C-327 introduced in June by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie will help regulate violence on television to provide young people with access to healthy television.

According to a study by the Centre for Media Studies at Laval University, acts of physical violence on television have increased 286% in 10 years and 81% of the acts of violence are seen on programs that start before 9 p.m.

On November 19, during World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec issued a public statement to say that television broadcasters are not being responsible enough.

Business of the HouseOpening of the Second Session of the 39th Parliament

October 16th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. It appears we have a few moments and to save time later I will inform members of something they are just aching to hear about now.

As hon. members know, our Standing Orders provide for the continuance of private members' business from session to session within a Parliament.

The list for the consideration of private members' business established on April 7, 2006, continues from the last session to this session notwithstanding prorogation.

As such, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that were listed on the order paper during the previous session are reinstated to the order paper and shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation of the first session.

Generally speaking, in practical terms, this also means that those items on the Order of Precedence remain on the Order of Precedence or, as the case may be, are referred to committee or sent to the Senate.

However, there is one item that cannot be left on the Order of Precedence. Pursuant to Standing Order 87(1), Parliamentary secretaries who are ineligible by virtue of their office to be put on the Order of Precedence will be dropped to the bottom of the list for the consideration of private members' business, where they will remain as long as they hold those offices.

Consequently, the item in the name of the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, Motion M-302, is withdrawn from the Order of Precedence.

With regard to the remaining items on the order of precedence let me remind the House of the specifics since the House is scheduled to resume its daily private members' business hour starting tomorrow.

At prorogation, there were seven private members' bills originating in the House of Commons adopted at second reading and referred to committee. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1:

Bill C-207, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance;

Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;

Bill C-305, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (exemption from taxation of 50% of United States social security payments to Canadian residents), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance;

Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage;

Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights;

Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development; and

Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Bills deemed introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to a committee)

Furthermore, four Private Members' bills originating in the House of Commons had been read the third time and passed. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, the following bills are deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House:

Bill C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171);

Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord;

Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad; and

Bill C-299, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identification information obtained by fraud or false pretence).

Accordingly, a message will be sent to inform the Senate that this House has adopted these four bills.

Hon. members will find at their desks an explanatory note recapitulating these remarks. The Table officers are available to answer any further questions that hon. members may have.

I trust that these measures will assist the House in understanding how private members' business will be conducted in this second session of the 39th Parliament.

(Bills deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House)

The House resumed from April 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2007 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank all my Bloc Québécois, Liberal, NDP and Conservative colleagues in the House of Commons for taking part in this important debate on reducing violence on television during prime time, especially the hours when children are watching.

Although Bill C-327 was important a few days, weeks, months and years ago, it is even more vital today, in light of recent events. Eight years ago today, on April 20, 1999, the tragic events at Columbine High School left 12 students and several teachers dead and many people injured. Today, we mark the eighth anniversary of that tragic event, which teaches us that we must fight against all sources of violence in our society. Like it or not, television is an important medium that conveys our social values. I believe that we need regulations that establish a middle ground between total freedom of expression and total censure. We are not suggesting censure. Our approach is designed neither to censure nor to allow total freedom of expression, but to strike a balance so that programs with violent content that are intended for viewers 13 and over are broadcast after 9:00 p.m. That balance is there.

As we all know, after the Columbine massacre, another tragic event took place at Dawson College, where a young woman, Anastasia De Sousa, was killed. The crazed gunman who entered Dawson College was inspired by a number of violent films and events. That fact cannot be denied.

Most recently, this week, the greatest tragedy of its kind in the United States took place at Virginia Tech university. In 1999, Virginia Tech's communications department published a study showing that a person exposed to violent programs for a certain number of hours would begin to seek violent solutions to conflicts with others.

We should have reacted back in 1999 when Virginia Tech researchers sounded the alarm. Today, Bill C-327 proposes a balanced solution to reduce violence in our society by reducing violence on television. I hope that my colleagues here in Parliament will keep the tragic events of the past few years in mind and support Bill C-327.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2007 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

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.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2007 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am especially pleased to rise in this House to give my support to Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), introduced by my colleague the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. Allow me first to congratulate him on the importance of this legislation that was inspired by his personal experience. The effect violence in television had on his child pushed the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie to do something concrete, positive and brave.

The small screen holds a significant place in our lives. It contributes to defining our identity. Childhood memories of television are lasting and young watchers are impressionable. That is why it is right to be concerned about the quality of programming being offered to children, especially since according to Canada's Report Card on Physical Activity for Children , more than 80% of youth watch more than two hours of television a day, which exceeds the maximum recommended by medical organizations.

This bill reminds broadcasters that they, like the public, have certain responsibilities and that through attractive and modern formats they can leave more room for positive models that can provide young people with inspiring examples. I am thinking in particular about the athletes that Luc Dupont, marketing expert at the University of Ottawa communications department, recently described as dream sellers. I would add that they also sell hope: athletes from the Alouettes and the Canadiens give sick children the courage to hang on, simply by visiting them in hospital.

Not so long ago, Julie, a constituent from Varennes, told me the story of her little boy. Samuel, inspired by the champion Shawn Sawyer, asked his mother to sign him up for figure skating lessons and this year he won two medals in that discipline. I am convinced that this simple story of emulation is a reality experienced by many families.

Athletes can inspire change in lifestyle habits, which is not just desirable but also urgent. The number of young people who are physically out of shape has increased dramatically over the past few years.

This fall, a study on the physical activity of young people in Canada showed that at the age of 13, 10% to 21% of girls never participate in continuous activities. The rates are almost as high with boys. Even worse, at 15, 18% to 34% of girls do not participate in any activity that gets their heart pumping, and the same goes for 10% to 27% of boys. There are consequences to this inactivity, since according to the Association pour la santé publique du Québec, 15% of young Quebeckers are overweight, and 7% are obese.

Ultimately, there needs to be a plan to reduce the number of hours spent in front of the television and to increase the amount of physical activity.

At the federal-provincial-territorial conference of ministers in charge of sports, physical activity and leisure, which was held in Whitehorse in February, and which I had the privilege of attending, a presentation from the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute confirmed that children are not active enough, to the point that their growth and development are compromised.

In order to address this worrisome situation, would it not be good to take this opportunity to offer positive role models on television to children, instead of violent images and behaviour, which are hardly part of a healthy lifestyle?

Making people responsible is no longer a long-term solution to the problem of children who are out of shape or obese. It is about time that we take action with respect to their environment. This is what was recommended in a study carried out jointly by the Institut de la statistique du Québec and the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, entitled “Excès de poids dans la population québécoise de 1987 à 2003”. This study concluded that:

—behaviour related to nutrition and physical activity...is not really the result of a person's free choice, but rather a response to environments where there is a mix of powerful economic, cultural and political forces.

The fact is—it can hardly be denied—that television is an economic, cultural and political force. It is therefore imperative to mobilize all players in the television industry to achieve the widest possible consensus around the major public health issue that sedentary living represents.

Instead of trying to put the blame on someone, we should use television and the power it obviously has to influence, to change attitudes and bring about the necessary behavioural changes. Members will recall that, following the Montreal Olympics and the outstanding display of grace and flexibility of Nadia Comaneci, in 1976, gymnastics enjoyed a sudden surge in popularity. At the time, the CBC had innovated, providing viewers with some 12 hours of television coverage per day, thereby allowing the public to familiarize itself with many little-known sports. The power of an image is such that it can foster callings in sports. The medals won by athletes like Gaétan Boucher and Marc Gagnon have helped Quebec become a real breeding ground of elite speed skaters.

Conversely, there were also a number of unfortunate incidents involving young children who sustained serious injuries trying to imitate professional wrestling stars. A few years ago, the TVA network, a private broadcaster in Quebec, decided to take off the air these types of shows which had until then been a staple in Sunday morning entertainment.

But that type of program is a far cry from Les Héros du samedi, which was a television show from my childhood. Everyone I meet in the context of the sporting events I attend as spokesperson for my political party seems to agree that that program served as an excellent showcase and was a great initiative on the part of Radio-Canada. That program unfortunately disappeared over 15 years ago, and many people are asking themselves what the public broadcaster is doing today to diffuse positive sports messages.

In February, Sports-Québec appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to present its position regarding the role of a public broadcaster in the 21st century. The evaluation of the situation by this key player in the Quebec sporting community is clear and unmistakable. When it comes to the broadcasting of Quebec's French-language organized sports, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has almost completely failed to fulfill its responsibilities, to such an extent that French-speaking viewers are now forced to turn to the public broadcaster's English network. This situation is unacceptable, as indicated by Sports-Québec:

For increasing numbers of young [Canadians] who want to have sport in their lives today and tomorrow, we must stimulate them and give them models. However, this right to hear about those of our athletes who inspire them is as legitimate for young francophones as it is for anglophones.

Since sports are an integral part of culture, Sports-Québec has concluded that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is not adequately fulfilling its role and recommends, among other things, that the legislated mandate of the CBC/Radio Canada, “include the responsibility to contribute to the promotion of healthy living habits ... ”, that the CBC/Radio Canada “produce and broadcast promotional material on improved physical fitness” and that “programming for children and youth include segments popularizing healthy living habits”. Thus, Sports-Québec is laying the foundation for a responsible image of sports, particularly organized sports, on public television.

As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to create the conditions within our society that facilitate and promote the development of our children and youth. What role models would we like to give them? What kind of demonstrations should we present? These are important questions and Bill C-327 opens the door to television programming that will promote values to contribute to the development of the people watching. The bill does not propose censorship of television. Rather, as indicated by this bill's sponsor last January, it is about adjusting broadcasters' programming to ensure they respect all members of the viewing public.

The House resumed from January 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Bill C-327Statements By Members

April 20th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, we are debating Bill C-327, which I am sponsoring in the House of Commons and which aims to reduce violence on television.

Eight years ago today, on April 20, 1999, the Columbine shooting took place. Closer to home, we also remember the tragic events at Dawson College on September 16, 2006, and the massacre this week at Virginia Tech University. Such events remind us of the importance of reducing violence in our society and especially on television.

A recent study by the communications department at Virginia Tech shows that someone who is exposed to violent programs and movies for a certain number of hours could decide to commit acts of violence to settle disagreements with others. It is therefore our duty as parliamentarians, citizens and parents to make sure our children can live in an environment where violence—which realistically cannot be completely eliminated— is better monitored and less accessible to children.

I invite my colleagues to vote in favour of Bill C-327.

April 19th, 2007 / 10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

This has been a very productive day, and I thank you for your testimony, particularly with the debate on Bill C-327 coming up tomorrow.

If I may, I'd like to return briefly to the actual purpose of our hearing today, which was the “full investigation of the role of a public broadcaster in the 21st century”, and that is certainly not a criticism of your response to the questions; your response has been very helpful.

My question is whether, in your judgment, it would be of value for the CBC to join the other 690 stations and become a member of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council--not under the control of it , but taking some direction from it.

I realize your answer could be taken and construed as being self-serving, and I hope that readers of this transcript will not take it that way. I'm asking that question because it seems to me that if there are standards on public broadcasters, they have the eyes and ears of exactly the same people as would be watching the CBC, and it strikes me that we might be lacking some continuity here.

April 19th, 2007 / 9:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you for your presentation this morning. It was very interesting.

The other day at the hearings I said that I find news reporting in all private broadcasting to be at a very high standard. When I watch, I see a level of journalistic independence and impartiality.

I am interested in this discussion of violence. You referred to Bill C-327, and I had spoken to it. The example you gave was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I have to confess that all my daughters went to see the movie the other night. They're big fans of the ninja turtles. Growing up, they watched the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all the time. I never thought that watching it would turn them into gangbangers.

So when we talk about what kind of violence there is on television, there are issues of degree. So we take a stand on ninja turtles, and yet to use the example in Bill C-327, Fear Factor, I was watching it with my daughter. The scenario was that a little girl was chained up and covered in Moroccan hissing cockroaches. The mother had to bite off the cockroaches with her mouth while the kid screamed.

That was in prime time, but it's A-okay, because at the end of the show, if the mother gets enough cockroaches off in time, she wins—I don't know—a Mazda, a ten-speed bike, a plasma television, or something. So child abuse for entertainment in prime time is okay, as long as the mother wins a prize at the end.

Fear Factor shows on Global, which is a Canadian network. What standards do you have for dealing with shows like that?

April 19th, 2007 / 9:30 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Others hold a contrary opinion, but I respect your point of view. Bill C-327 is intended to counter the presence of violence on television, and not to diminish the number of complaints on the subject. I want to be fair and balanced. Do you understand? The intent of the bill is not to decrease the number of complaints concerning violence on television, but to decrease the violence in televised newscasts, particularly those showing events in Afghanistan or in Irak, at times when children would still be watching television.

You spoke of cartoons that have violent components. We could potentially discuss classification in order to assess the scope or the significance of the violence. And yet, current studies show that as far as video games are concerned, whether it be Nintendo, Xbox or others, children who are naturally non-violent develop an aggressive behaviour after having been exposed to these games. This violence may not go so far as to result in criminal behaviour as we have just seen in Virginia, in the United States, but it does exist. It is the parents who are complaining and who have always complained about this violence. That is in fact what inspired the bill. In any case, that is not the issue.

Returning to the CBC: are you aware of the substance of the Convention on Cultural Diversity passed by UNESCO and which Canada was the first to ratify?

April 19th, 2007 / 9:25 a.m.
See context

National Chair, Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ronald Cohen

At least one aspect is quite telling. From the time Virginie Larivière presented her petition to Prime Minister Mulroney, when violence on television was a fairly significant concern—and when there were a lot of children's programs containing violent elements, including Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and programs of that genre—violence was a concern.

After the petition was presented, broadcasters took an active position in revising the violence code of 1987, frankly in order to make it more effective and focus more on children.

I find it interesting that one of the things noted in Bill C-327 has been in existence since January 1, 1994. This is very specific, and the most advanced provisions anywhere in the world, I suggest, for dealing with children's programming.

This is only a partial answer to your question, but the point is that since that code has come into effect, the number of complaints relating to violence on television has actually decreased significantly.

We noted that in going back to 2001, there was a diminution of about 37% in the number of complaints relating to violence on television.

I suggest that it's a diminishing problem in the television area, which is a very specific answer to what you're asking. It has become a less important issue, because honestly it's so well dealt with by the system that we now have in place.

To complete the answer, I should say that other issues are rising a bit more. I think that the presence of sexual content on television and coarse language on television and radio are issues on the increase.

Teisha, I don't know if you have any disagreement.

Those tend to be on the increase a bit, but again one of the important protections we have is the watershed hour. It was originally created in the violence code to deal with violence intended exclusively for adults. We have expanded this, so that all forms of programming, including sexual content, coarse language, and adult themes, are relegated to the post-watershed hour and must be accompanied by viewer advisories, and so on. But there are increases in that.

April 19th, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
See context

Ronald Cohen National Chair, Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee, good morning. Thank you for the invitation to appear before you today.

As the chair said, my name is Ronald Cohen, and I'm the national chair. With me are John MacNab, CBSC's executive director; Teisha Gaylard, our director of policy; and Burhaan Warsame, the manager of the CBSC's ethnocultural outreach project.

While we appreciate the invitation to appear before you, we are acutely aware of the fact that the CBSC's role is in the area of private broadcasting, and of course your investigation focuses on the role of the public broadcaster. Our members are Canada's 609 private broadcasters, covering conventional television, specialty services, AM and FM radio, and satellite radio—effectively about 95% of the commercial private broadcasters who are eligible to join the council.

Although it does not fall within our mandate to comment directly on issues involving public broadcasters, what the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council does is so unique and central to the Canadian broadcasting system that you may find elements of what we accomplish at least indirectly worthy of consideration in your deliberations.

There are two major aspects of our work that are unique—and, you may conclude, worthy of replication in the public broadcasting area. The first is the breadth of public concerns to which we are responsive, and the second is the extent of our outreach into all Canadian communities.

The council's mandate is to oversee the administration of the Canadian private broadcaster codes. These currently include the 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 (RTNDA) Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.

I should add that last week the CRTC issued a public notice calling for comment on a new CBSC code, the journalistic independence code. It will also be administered by the CBSC and be a CRTC condition of licence on Canadian broadcasters with ownership interests in both print and broadcast areas.

There is also another code, the equitable portrayal code, in the offing. In due course, it will extend to all communities the benefits hitherto available on the basis of gender alone, under the terms of the sex role portrayal code for television and radio programming. It should be the subject of another CRTC public notice this year.

It is essential to note that the codified standards reflect Canadian values. The enforcement tools are also Canadian—that is to say, effective without being heavy-handed, and industry-driven rather than government-driven.

This is particularly pertinent as we have watched the unravelling of the Don Imus debacle in the United States in the past couple of weeks. The concerns of the American regulatory system are limited to nudity and coarse language—not violence on television, human rights, portrayal issues, nor respect for the dignity of individuals on the basis of their race, ethnic origin, colour, sexual orientation, religion, and so on. Those are Canadian values and central to our standards and enforcement system. Canada does not depend on advertisers to force program change on an ad hoc basis as in the United States. We have rules that broadcasters willingly accept.

In the exercise of our mandate the CBSC has 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, reality programming, entertainment, news magazine shows, feature films, children's programming, and so on.

The CBSC has quite a comprehensive knowledge about the subjects of complaint. Moreover, it 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. We deal with approximately 2,000 complaints every year from Canadians who are unhappy about something they have seen or heard on the airwaves.

I should add parenthetically that a number of these complaints concern the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Ironically, since the CBC does not have an equivalent system of our own, we forward these to the CRTC to deal with.

In fact, having just mentioned the subject of children's programming on the one hand and audience complaints about many subjects on the other, I note that tomorrow you will be debating a private member's bill on the subject of violence in the media, Bill C-327, proposed by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

You should be aware, first of all, that as a percentage of complaints, those relating to violence on television have been steadily declining, by a huge margin, namely, 37%, between 2001 and 2006. Moreover, the Bigras bill's proposals would add nothing to the panoply of tools we have 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.

We already have a watershed hour that is not limited to violence intended for adults. It restricts violence, to be sure, and all forms of adult content to the post-9 p.m. period. We already have provisions for ratings and viewer advisories that apply well beyond the violence-on-television area.

Also, we already have the most detailed provisions to protect children from inappropriate television programming that you can find anywhere in the world. If passed, Bill C-327 would deliver less to the Canadian public than we already have.

Our process encourages the resolution of complaints by meaningful broadcaster dialogue with the complainants. When this does not lead to complainant satisfaction, the CBSC rules on those complaints via adjudicating panels made up of equal numbers of public and industry adjudicators. There are five regional panels, dealing with the Atlantic region, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, and British Columbia. There are also two national panels, one of which deals with conventional television and the other with speciality services.

Biographies of every public and industry adjudicator are available on the CBSC website. They include former members of Parliament, cabinet ministers, a lieutenant governor, a provincial premier, CRTC commissioners, and Canadians of many walks of life who have manifested their concern about the public good.

The private broadcasters' self-regulatory process is predicated on full disclosure and the publicity of all formal CBSC decisions, whether rendered for or against broadcasters. Consequently, the press release announcing every decision is forwarded to the print media, broadcasters, and any person in Canada or elsewhere in the world wishing to be on the recipient list. The nearly 400 decisions rendered since 1991 are posted on our website with their full written reasons. They form an extensive and thorough body of jurisprudence, dealing with and defining for the future the widest possible range of content issues.

We deal with all forms of content in all kinds of radio and television programming, period. We also do this in an independent, arm's-length fashion, with considerable public involvement in our deliberations and decisions.

With the exception of the CBC's ombudsmen, who work in the narrower area of news and public affairs, Canada's public broadcasters have no equivalent process.

The council is also proud that it reaches out into all corners of Canada's great multicultural environment, by informing citizens of Canada's broadcast standards and the self-regulatory system in English, French, and forty other languages, both in print and on this CBSC website.

Two sets of all of these foreign language versions of the brochure have been deposited with the clerk. We would certainly be delighted to provide any of you with a set, and/or any individual language of interest to you or indeed to your constituents.

I should have added earlier that our adjudicating panels reflect that diversity as well. It is also worth noting that 13.9 million Canadians—not out of the last census, the result of which are just available, but from a couple of years ago—speak one or more of the forty languages. There are programs broadcast in all of these languages in Canada.

May I clarify that the forty languages of comfort reflect Canada's Latin American hemispheric communities; Canada's indigenous communities, in Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, Cree, Ojibwa and Mohawk; Canada's eastern and western European communities; Canada's African communities; Canada's Near and Far Eastern communities; and Canada's South Asian communities, in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, and Sinhala.

The CBSC works very hard to ensure that the results of its decisions are known to all who are affected by them. Its volunteer adjudicators, on both the public and industry side, are dedicated to the emergence of a set of principles that will fairly circumscribe public expectations. It is a mark of the thoughtfulness and impartiality of the adjudicators, both public and industry, that all but five of 398 decisions have been rendered unanimously, whether for or against broadcasters.

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 in order to work.

The system works because the private broadcasters have committed themselves to the process. They created it; they support it financially. More importantly, they support it morally. After all, they live in the communities in which they broadcast. They want us to deal with all substantive public concerns about content, not just some of them. They also want us to tell all Canadians, in their languages of comfort, how to assess the self-regulatory process. It makes good sense, good Canadian sense. It's good for every corner of the Canadian broadcasting system.

Thank you for your attention. We are now available to answer your questions.

Bill C-327—Broadcasting Act—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

February 23rd, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

On January 30, 2007, just prior to debate on Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), a point of order was raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to the effect that this bill required a royal recommendation.

The sponsor of the bill, the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, and the hon. member for Mississauga South also made interventions arguing that this bill did not infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown.

The Chair thanks the hon. members for having addressed this matter at an early opportunity so that a ruling could be delivered before the question is put at second reading.

In his submission, the Parliamentary Secretary argued that clauses 1 and 2 of the bill were adding a new purpose to the Broadcasting Act.

These provisions would give new powers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to regulate violence on television, verify broadcasters’ compliance, issue annual reports, and undertake a five-year review including the holding of public consultations. These activities, it was argued, were new responsibilities that would clearly require spending.

Citing rulings delivered on February 8, 2005, May 9, 2005, and September 19, 2006, the parliamentary secretary stated that these precedents express the principle that a royal recommendation is required when a bill proposes significant change in the mandate of a public body that entails spending.

In short, the parliamentary secretary made the point that a royal recommendation is required when legislative action seeks an authorization for new spending for a distinct purpose.

In the case of Bill C-327, the question is whether the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes constitutes spending by the CRTC for a new and distinct purpose.

First, I would like to point out that, as a rule, a power to make regulations given to the government in an act of Parliament is not an authorization either for new spending or for an appropriation. It is simply a statutory power to make regulations.

On the issue of determining if there is a new and distinct purpose contained in Bill C-327, the Chair notes that section 5 of the Broadcasting Act provides that the CRTC

--shall regulate and supervise all aspects of the Canadian broadcasting system with a view to implementing the broadcasting policy set out in subsection 3(1)....

Subsection 3(1) of the act specifies that

(d) the Canadian broadcasting system should

(i) serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada, [and]

(ii) encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity....

It seems to the Chair that the provisions being contemplated in C-327 would not authorize spending for a new and distinct purpose. As the Broadcasting Act indicates, the CRTC presently has the authority to regulate programming to safeguard social values, a part of the CRTC mandate into which new regulations to reduce violence in the programming offered to the public would appear to fall. The Chair is of the view that as a whole, Bill C-327 proposes activities which are already being performed by the CRTC within its existing mandate, that is to say: the making of regulations, the conducting of reviews, the holding of public consultations and the reporting to Parliament on the broadcasting industry.

Bill C-327 may or may not result in a greater workload for the CRTC, but the activities being proposed are within its mandate. If additional staff or resources are required to perform these activities then they would be brought forward in a separate appropriation bill for Parliament’s consideration.

In summary, Bill C-327 in its current form can continue through the legislative process without a royal recommendation.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the federal government I would like to thank the member of Parliament for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his ongoing efforts to reduce violence on television.

The government understands the strong feelings expressed by those opposed to violence on television, especially where children are concerned. The government shares the concerns of parents, teachers and all stakeholders with respect to violence in our society.

Before considering amendments to the current act, I believe it is important to look at the system already in place. The current approach to violence on television protects television viewers, especially children, from the impact of violence. This approach has made it possible to adopt a strategy of cooperation and industry self-regulation, with the support of the CRTC and under its supervision.

As we know, the Broadcasting Act states that broadcasting licensees take full responsibility for the programs they broadcast and that this programming must be of a high standard.

The CRTC is an independent agency responsible for regulating and supervising Canada's broadcasting and telecommunications systems. It reports to Parliament on its activities through the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The Broadcasting Act and the expression of Canadian standards and values guide the work of the CRTC in managing the Canadian broadcasting system and its licensing process and conditions. The CRTC may, in carrying out its mandate, suspend, revoke, amend or refuse to renew a licence if conditions are not met.

Under the CRTC policy, broadcasters must meet licensing conditions and comply with the voluntary code on television violence, the code of ethics, and the sex role portrayal code for television and radio programming developed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. Moreover, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an independent self-regulatory body created by its broadcaster members, is responsible for ensuring compliance with codes and industry standards, including the classification system.

The government continues to be concerned about violence on television and ensuring that all industry partners comply with standards to ensure the well-being of our children. I would like to give some background on current activities among the various participants in the classification system.

In 1992 the CRTC focused its activities by setting the following objectives: implement real codes of conduct at the industry level; better inform viewers through program classification; change the attitudes of public education and media education programs; and strengthen the power of television viewers through the V-chip. Canadians are the forefront of addressing violence on TV.

I would like to add that the V-chip technology was developed by Tim Collings of Simon Fraser University, originally from my riding of Perth—Wellington in Downie Township.

Introduced in 1993, the television violence code states that Canadian broadcasters may not air programming that contains gratuitous violence in any form, or which sanctions, promotes or glamorizes violence. It also states that programming intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before 9 p.m.

In 1997 the Action Group on Violence on Television, an organization representing all sectors of the Canadian broadcasting industry, launched its program classification system. These codes are still in effect. Broadcasting industry representatives, researchers, educators, child mental health experts, parents and the government agencies that were involved continue to promote ongoing dialogue to help people better understand the problem and to create permanent tools to help parents make informed viewing choices for their children.

Canada is also very involved in children's media literacy and in educating children about the various media to which they are exposed. There are media awareness networks that are excellent sources of information about violence on television and that are still in place today.

As we can see from the many parties involved and the regulatory provisions that have been adopted and implemented, such as the codes of conduct adopted by the industry, the public education, and the public awareness programs, we have good management tools to address violence on television in Canada.

The government acknowledges the achievements of all stakeholders involved in the fight against violence and continues to believe in the effectiveness of the current system of self-regulatory codes administered by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and imposed on broadcasters as conditions of licence.

We would also like to underline the vital role that parents and guardians have to play and the fact that they have tools available to them and can make choices to help them better control the television programs presented in their homes.

With the monitoring system already in place to limit violence on television, we have looked at two annual reports that include the issue of limiting violence on television and we have found that few official complaints were made by the Canadian public.

The annual report of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for 2005-06 states that there was a total of 79 complaints relating to the violence code. Six of these complaints related to Quebec television stations. According to the CRTC's broadcast policy monitoring report of 2006, a total of 44 complaints were processed, which represents a significant decrease for 2005 over previous years.

In closing, given these results and the tools that are available as well as the role parents can play, we must question the merits of Bill C-327.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate on Bill C-327 dealing with the reduction of violence in television broadcasts.

Television violence is a problem of such scope that it has been the subject of various, often controversial but always relevant and thought provoking, studies, reports and analyses. More importantly, this issue reminds the elected representatives that we are that, in our society, television has become an omnipresent media whose impact on the most receptive or vulnerable audiences, and I am thinking of our children, should never be underestimated.

At a time when an overwhelming majority of people in Canada and Quebec own at least one television set and spend an average of four hours a day watching this hypnotic box; when new media are being put on the market and the number of available stations keeps increasing; and when television is more and more and increasingly openly blamed for breeding a scourge of our society—and I am referring to all forms of violence—the Bloc Québécois, through the determination and perseverance of the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, whose eloquent plea we have heard and grasped the scope of, could not pass on a relevant debate and another meaningful piece of legislation on the theme of television images of a violent nature and their impact on our youth. That is the raison d'être of his bill to reduce violence in television broadcasts by granting the CRTC additional regulatory powers in this respect, without developing a censorship mentality.

The bill's summary states, and I quote, “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”.

And here is how the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie introduced his bill at first reading stage:

A recent study by Laval University showed that acts of violence shown on television have tripled since 1994. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Act to create a regulation governing television violence. The CRTC would be responsible for monitoring how large broadcasters apply the regulation that would be created by the bill I am introducing today.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the bill and salutes the initiative of the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. The Bloc Québécois reminds the House that, beyond self-regulation, we must provide broadcasting with an adequate framework in order to avoid a drift toward sensationalism that does not necessarily reflect Quebec and Canadian values.

The Bloc Québécois believes that young children should not be confronted with violence at a very early age, because this would tend to trivialize it, with the predictable consequences.

As I was saying at the beginning of my speech, violence in our society is an issue that raises concerns among the general public and, indeed, the legislator that each of us represents here. In this regard, we have the responsibility to introduce legislation.

What are the impacts of television on our children? In 1998, a UNESCO study showed that children under the age of 12 were spending an average of three hours a day watching television, that is 50% more than at any other activity.

Children who watch very violent television or films are more likely to become aggressive. There is no doubt about it.

Many reports agree on this. There is an enormous amount of research into the effects of media violence.

Researchers have long wondered whether television violence has such effect on young people that it can actually make them more aggressive. After some 50 years of research into this question, some investigators such as Professor Howell Huesmann of the University of Michigan are convinced that there is evidence of a direct correlation. I quote him:

—exposure to media violence causes children to behave more aggressively and affects them as adults years later.

Professor Huesmann demonstrated that when children imitate the actions of their “media heroes”, they develop “cognitive scripts” that ultimately guide their own behaviour. For example, when their heroes are violent, children internalize scripts in which violence is presented as an appropriate or legitimate method of settling disputes, solving problems or dealing with frustrations.

According to other researchers, the psychological effects are not as important as the physiological effects in the internalization of aggressive behaviour seen on television. These researchers observed that exposure to violent imagery is linked to increased heart rate, faster respiration and higher blood pressure. They think that this simulated "fight-or-flight" response predisposes people to act aggressively in the real world.

Similarly, an American study looked at the effects over 20 years. It showed a modest correlation between shows watched by eight-year-old boys and an aggressiveness indicator 11 years later. Boys who watched a lot of violent shows when they were young had much more serious police records at 30 years of age than other boys. These effects could not be ascribed to other social factors. To quantify this “modest” effect, the researchers said that it was comparable to the effect of tobacco consumption on lung cancer. All the experts in large research associations agree on these proven facts.

I want to emphasize once again that the consumption of televisions shows has certain effects, both direct and indirect. No one will be able to say later that they did not know. I encourage the House, therefore, to show good sense and support Bill C-327.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and speak to Bill C-327.

I have to make an admission to the people of Canada that I am a huge fan of action films. In fact, my whole family are fans. On Friday nights, we like nothing better for the world to be hanging in balance while the good guy has to run out and save the planet with two minutes to spare while the planes are flying. I think one of the reasons these films are successful is that they are entertaining and people can tell the difference between the reality of violence and the action film genre, so I have to put that on the record.

However, I am interested in this bill because I believe that there is a difference between seeing the fantasy world of cops and robbers and action hero stuff that we are used to, the sort of comic book entertainment, and the good guy always wins in the end element of film and television. There is a fundamental shift that I am starting to see in terms of three areas.

First, is the increasing level of abusive, degrading and humiliating television that has become a standard staple.

Second, is the relentlessness of the imagery. As we know, our young people are not just watching it on television, they are on the Internet, and there is a relentlessness that is hammered home time and time again.

I think of the third issue, and I find this from my role formerly as a school board trustee. When we talk about empowerment and choice, we are assuming that we are talking about 1950s-style families. I can tell members, as a school board trustee, many of the kids in my community are at home alone when they come home from school because their mom, a single mother, is working or their father is out working. Who are they home with? They are home with the electronic child molester. That is who they are home with.

If we watch the programming that was put in the afternoon slot in the last number of years, we have Maury Povich and Springer. This is absolutely abusive and degrading television. I am concerned that when young people come into class, they do not have the faculties to separate this.

So, what we do have? We have a policy of zero tolerance in our schools. I have seen many kids act out stuff in the schoolyard without even having a sense of what they are doing, and then of course we have to bring in the police to deal with it. I am not talking so much about physical violence being acted out, but some of the abusive stuff that they see on television. So, there is an element there that we can talk about empowering our young people, but if they are home alone, they do not have that choice.

I think this debate today is actually very appropriate, given the very disturbing national conversation that is going on. All around us, Canadians are talking about the Pickton trial.

There is a really interesting debate if we listen to the talk shows. What people are saying is, “I don't want to hear it. I don't want these greasy fingerprints left on my imagination. Have the trial, please, but spare us the grizzly gore”.

What strikes me about this conversation, because I have been listening to the people phoning in, is that people do not want to be desensitized. They do not want to accept a point where they no longer even shrug when they hear these kinds of details. It is a very horrific conversation that we have to have. I was thinking in terms of the Bernardo trial and how I still feel such rage over what I heard about that. We are being asked as a society to cross a terrible Rubicon of the imagination whereby something that once was just a realm of Hollywood is something we have to accept as a reality. As I was thinking of this conversation, I was watching television with my daughter. It was interesting that I saw within a space of one hour two ads for serial killer torture shows that had very gruesome, very graphic and very stylized forms of the torture.

Can our children tell the difference between the allegations at the Pickton farm and these things on television? Of course they can. Just as they can tell the difference when they are playing video games that seem to me to be so much similar to the Dawson shooting. But at a certain point, there is a level of desensitization, and that desensitization has a very profound impact for cultural development.

Ronald Cohen, the chair of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, says very clearly, “In addition, there is no gratuitous or glamorized violence on television at any time of the day or night. Period”.

I was watching 24 with my daughters the other night. They are big fans of Jack Bauer. I am a big fan of Jack Bauer, the actor playing him being the grandson of Tommy Douglas, the great Canadian socialist. Jack Bauer is always there to save the world.

However, there is an interesting debate that has come up about 24 because of the way that people are now beginning to accept the notion that torture is perfectly okay. Jack Bauer can never save the planet unless he tortures somebody. He is very effective in torturing people and because Jack tortures people things work.

I was speaking to an educator who had been talking to a young person about notions of right and wrong and limits of right and wrong. The issue of torture came up. The student said, “Torture is perfectly okay. That's what you do if you're a police officer. That is perfectly acceptable behaviour.” The educator asked, “Why would you think that torture was normal?” The child said, “Jack Bauer has to do it.”

Think of the profound shift that has taken place in the last 10 years. Ten years ago, what was torture? In our imagination that was what thugs did in a Latin American prison. That is what petty gang lords did. However, a conversation now where we have stylized violence, and it is very over the top, it becomes acceptable. Therefore, we become desensitized to it.

Another point Mr. Cohen makes in terms of the reason we do not need standards, that we do not need to impose them here, and he is talking about protecting children. He says, “There can be no themes that threaten a child's sense of security.”

I was watching Fear Factor in my hotel room the other night. Since you might not believe, Mr. Speaker, how outrageous it is I will read the plot description that I picked up off the Internet. This was a plot with families, so it was mothers, fathers and their children on this show. This is a quote from the show. The children will be locked in a box of Madagascar hissing cockroaches that would be poured all over the children. Then the parents would have to use their mouths to transfer roaches from the box to a counterbalance. The pair would then have to get the keys so that the child could find a way to escape from this box where the child was screaming and covered with cockroaches.

The message I infer from this is that child abuse is okay if it is done on prime time, if it is done for entertainment purposes, and it is very clear that it is done for greed because do you know what happens, Mr. Speaker, if the mother manages to pick enough of these Madagascar hissing cockroaches off her screaming child and frees them from this locked box? She will win a 2004 Mazda6 Sport Wagon. I find this absolutely abominable.

I would like to think that industry would self-regulate, but I think what we are seeing now in terms of abuse on television is that it is self-regulating itself down to the bottom and we should not go along with this. I think at a certain point we have to say as a society that this degradation has to stop. The idea of abusing and humiliating people as a form of cheap entertainment is not acceptable. We do not accept it when our children act it out in the schoolyard. We should not have to accept it as a regular form of entertainment.

Again, I would like to point out that people can say, “Turn it off”, but I know of so many children who are at home alone. They are not reading, they are watching and this is what they are watching.

This leads me to another point that I think has to be made. It is a more subtle point. It is the notion of the breakdown of the self, the self-identity and the self-awareness from watching abusive television again and again by young people. I read a book earlier last year entitled A Is for Ox: the Collapse of Literacy and the Rise of Violence in An Electronic Age by Barry Sanders. He made some amazing correlations that what we are seeing in terms of a culture where children are raised strictly on television is the breakdown of literacy, not simply that they cannot read but literate conversation, the sense of self, has disappeared in so many young children. They do not have that construct.

He said that there are profound implications for society when we have children who are raised like this because as they have no sense of self they have no sense of the other. He is definitely making a very clear equation in his work between this rise of cultural illiteracy and a culture of violence, and a casual acceptance of violence.

Therefore, I am very pleased that Parliament has taken the measure to debate this issue. In terms of the New Democrats we believe that this is not an issue of censorship. This is an issue of restoring some fairness to the airwaves and saying to families that they do not have to worry that their children are being preyed upon by the electronic child molester if they have to go out to work.

There have to be some standards. If industry is not willing to meet those standards, then we have to have a national conversation and that conversation, I believe, has to include educators and a broad cross-section of our society. Clearly, it is our purview here within the House of Commons to begin that conversation.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that all members in the House join me in genuine concern about ensuring that our children have safeguards against violence on television in this country. To this end, on behalf of the residents in the Churchill riding, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts) introduced by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

Upon introduction of the bill on June 19, 2006, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie said:

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to introduce a bill to reduce television violence, particularly during peak viewing hours for children.

This quote encapsulates the objective the member hopes to achieve with this bill. Before continuing this debate, I would like to acknowledge the integrity of my hon. colleague's aim. As many parliamentarians would know, the bill was initially introduced in the House of Commons during the first session of the 37th Parliament as Bill C-420 and prior to reintroduction, the bill received only slight modifications.

The issue of violence on television has been at the forefront of the public mind over the past couple of decades. In fact, the issue did become a priority for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the regulatory body of Canada's Broadcasting Act and in 1990 it commissioned two studies, “Scientific Knowledge about Television Violence” and “Summary and Analysis of Various Studies on Violence and Television”. The findings and recommendations of these studies led to action by the CRTC toward the development of guidelines in Canada by working with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, provincial ministers and the cable industry.

In 1992 a significant event occurred when a very young woman, Virginie Larivière, submitted a petition to Parliament with 1.5 million signatures seeking a ban on television violence. It was a clear message from Canadians on the issue.

In February 1993 the Action Group on Violence on Television was formed. It was comprised of the Association of Canadian Advertisers, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Cable Television Association, Canadian Film and Television Production Association, the Association des producteurs de films et de télévision du Québec, and the licensees of pay television, pay per view services and specialty services.

In September of that year they released a general statement of principles concerning violence on television programming with the aim of a classification system for television programming. Numerous critical actions followed. The CRTC accepted the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' revised voluntary code regarding violence in television programming and announced that compliance would be a condition of a broadcast licence. The code designated the watershed in which broadcasters could not air programs which included violence intended for an adult audience between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Since that time, Canada has been a leader throughout the world in setting regulatory mechanisms and strong industry codes to ensure that viewing choices for children remain responsive to the concerns of the public. These currently include program ratings systems; on-screen icons; violence guidelines and other content guidelines referring to language and content of a sexual nature; required frequent viewer advisories, both on-screen and audible; and program embedded ratings for use with V-chip technology.

These are a mandatory system of codes and adherence to them is not voluntary. The system was approved by the CRTC in June 1997. Private broadcasters must agree to them and licences are reviewed regularly by the CRTC.

This proposed legislation seeks to amend the Broadcasting Act to grant the CRTC the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes. However, a great deal has changed in broadcasting standards and practices over the past 15 years on the issue of violence on television and a child or youth audience.

It effectively established a broad set of policies, technologies and rules affecting broadcasters that I would argue address the concerns and even the purpose of this bill. This is largely confirmed by the member's proposed amendment to section 10 with the addition of:

The Commission shall make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes, including those contained in programs intended for persons under the age of 12 years.

In an effort to safeguard children against violent television programming, various stringent measures were put in place. These policies are complemented by a series of technologies that have steadily increased in television broadcasting since their initial introduction.

For example, the CRTC launched a variety of new technologies set to increase viewer awareness of suitability of a given program. This is done through both voice and print immediately prior to programs as well as during commercial breaks.

Parent friendly rating systems have also been carefully integrated into the suitability warnings. Moreover, the introduction of an advanced parental control technology known as V-chip was created and put into action. It allows concerned parents to filter inappropriate content based on a rating system.

Comparing the existing practices of the CRTC with the member's proposed amendment to the Broadcasting Act, I think it is fair to say that the commissioner has ensured regulations are in place addressing television violence during peak hours and is effectively monitored. In fact, in 1994 the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an independent organization comprised of public and industry representatives, announced that the children's television program, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, violated children's programming provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' violence code. The producers were forced to comply with the code or the broadcasters were to remove it from their schedule.

In fact, to emphasize the results of the positive actions taken by broadcasters, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has actually reported a decline in the percentage of complaints concerning violence on television. Between 2001 and 2006, public complaints involving violence have dropped by 37% and it ranks sixth as the subject of television complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

After taking into account the current policies and practices of the CRTC governing violence on television and now returning to the member's stated objective, and more important, the contents of his bill, I do not believe the proposed amendments will have an impact in reducing violence during peak hours.

Given the standards and practices that are already in place and enforced by the commission, Bill C-327 is redundant in terms of the Broadcasting Act. It is my assertion that the various mediums in today's market have a significant role to play in terms of the amount of violent content which is available to children and youth. Today's new medium means rapid access to materials through the Internet, video games and DVDs.

While I applaud the spirit of the member's bill, I do believe it is adequately covered through the current Broadcasting Act and regulatory body, the CRTC, to safeguard Canadians and to protect our values, and I cannot lend it my support.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to address this very significant concern in Canada.

The bill before us today is a further attempt to address the issue of TV violence in Canada. The bill would amend the Broadcasting Act by imposing a new, regulatory framework on the broadcast industry. I want to thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his efforts in bringing this legislation before Parliament.

From the outset, I want to state that reducing violence in our society is a priority for our Conservative government. Indeed, addressing violent crime in Canada is one of the five key priorities which we set during the last federal election, and we have made significant progress in changing our criminal laws to ensure that Canada's streets and communities are safe.

The tabling of the bill gives us an opportunity to consider again Canada's success in addressing violence on television and how Canadians, especially young Canadians, are exposed to it.

The bill would amend the Broadcasting Act by requiring the CRTC to make specific regulations to reduce the number of violent scenes on television. While I believe the motives behind the bill are laudable, the bill itself is flawed for a number of reasons.

It represents a veiled attempt to impose additional censorship on broadcasters, very likely violating the protections of freedom of expression under the charter. It would also impose a new regulatory burden on government which would cost taxpayers more money. It implies that Canadians are not smart enough to read the required warnings and make viewing decisions for themselves. It shifts responsibility for supervising and educating children from parents to the federal government.

The good news is that much of the authority which the mover of the bill is seeking is already contained in the current Broadcasting Act.

I would like to look at Bill C-327 in the context of current broadcasting policy and at the tools already available under the Broadcasting Act that encourage Canadians to become media literate and to then make safe viewing choices for themselves.

Our current broadcasting policy focuses on empowering Canadians to make educated choices for themselves about what they and their families will watch on TV. Our federal government consults and cooperates with law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, parents and schools, and in doing so, we focus on five common objectives.

First, we want to educate TV viewers. We want to strengthen the enforcement of the existing laws. We want to implement complaint reporting systems. We want to ensure that public and private sectors consult with each other and with their counterparts in other countries. Finally, and perhaps more important, we want to promote industry self-regulation.

That last objective, industry self-regulation, is key. The broadcast industry has, in consultation with the federal government, adopted a voluntary set of broadcast standards and a code of conduct which it applies to all of its programming.

Canadians will be very familiar with the frequent warnings which accompany programs containing violence or questionable or sexual content. These warnings equip parents to make decisions for themselves and their families as to the kind of programming which is suitable for them.

An added benefit of industry self-regulation is the fact that the financial burden of regulation and monitoring is borne primarily by industry, not by the taxpayers of this country.

Even if we wanted to regulate and control everything shown on television, it would be a futile endeavour. Canadians must understand that much of what we see on TV comes from foreign television signals. Canada has limited jurisdiction over these signals. We also have little jurisdiction, if any, over material that Canadians may view over the Internet.

Both foreign broadcasters and Internet service providers are not subject to Canada's licensing requirement. They are not subject to the Canadian broadcasting code of conduct and ethics, and as technology continues to develop, our ability to control content will continue to decline.

The current media environment is indeed the global village that Canadian professor Marshall McLuhan so prophetically pointed to. Government control over content is no longer a long term option in broadcasting. More than ever, Canadians need to be well informed. They need to be exposed to new technologies while understanding the potential harmful aspects of these innovations.

We live in a world without walls. We cannot be with our children at all times to keep them safe from harm. In the same way, recent experience has taught us that we cannot always protect our children and other Canadian audiences from controversial or objectionable content, especially when it originates from outside of Canada. It is even more difficult to do so if in fact we are to respect the charter right of freedom of expression.

What we can do is educate Canadians and give them the tools necessary to discern good content from harmful content. That is what the current Broadcasting Act does. The TV industry provides viewers with helpful information about programming content to enable each one of us to act positively, to become critical thinkers and to learn to discern. I also note that technology nowadays gives parents things such as the V-chip to allow them to control what their children watch on TV.

There is something troubling about this bill and it is in the preamble. The preamble categorically states that “censorship is not a solution”, yet the bill then proceeds to do exactly that, namely impose censorship by requiring the CRTC to impose regulations reducing violence in TV programming. These conflicting objectives are clearly fatal to the bill.

I remind the House of some of the key policy objectives contained in the Broadcasting Act. The act states in section 3(1)(d)(i) that the broadcasting system should:

serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada,

The very next paragraph states that the system should:

encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity--

To me these words suggest imagination and diversity of opinion, something that our charter of rights guarantees. Any attempt to circumscribe these rights would likely result in a successful challenge under the charter and I for one am not prepared to burden the taxpayers of the country with the cost of needless and ultimately futile litigation.

I would encourage the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie to again review the existing provisions of the Broadcasting Act, most notably subsections 10(c), 10(f) and 10(k) because these subsections already spell out a broad regulatory framework which, at least in my experience, has led to significant cooperation on the part of the broadcast industry. Moreover, the act already states that all broadcasting licensees are responsible for the programs they broadcast and that this programming must be of a high standard.

The Canadian approach to maintaining high standards engages the broadcast industry instead of invoking a unilateral heavy-handed enforcement program.

In conclusion, we have to ask ourselves a number of fundamental questions. Do we believe in more government? Do we believe that government should usurp the rightful role of parents to train and educate children? Should Canadians no longer be responsible for their own decisions for informing themselves? Finally, do we believe that taxpayers should again be burdened with additional regulatory costs that should be borne by industry? I believe the answer is no to all of these questions and that answer must compel us to reject this bill, as well intentioned as it might be.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

moved that Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak on Bill C-327 respecting violence in television broadcasts, which I am sponsoring in this House. I would like to start by reviewing the context in which this bill was introduced last spring.

One day during the winter of 2000, I was sitting in my living room in the early evening, watching TV with my daughter, Marie-Noël, who was three years old at the time. That is when I noticed how captivated, almost hypnotized, my daughter was by scenes of violence in a movie broadcast on the public network.

That is what prompted me, a few months later, to introduce a bill to reduce violence in television broadcasts. Sadly, the bill was not deemed votable at that time, but it nonetheless allowed me to mobilize parents, teachers, child care stakeholders and others in civil society who were concerned about our children's future, to send the government a clear message: it had to regulate violence in television broadcasts.

Today, six years later, Marie-Noël is nine years old, not much younger than the 11-year-old boy whose death, according to Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier, was directly linked to violent scenes broadcast on public television during prime time which he attempted to recreate. In April, the coroner concluded that the current measures to protect our children from violence in television broadcasts were insufficient. She encouraged broadcasters to move shows rated 13 and over past 9 p.m.

That is what Bill C-327, which I am currently sponsoring and which is being debated in the House today, is proposing. Under this bill to amend the Broadcasting Act, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, would develop regulations limiting violence in television programming, ensure compliance by licence holders and provide for penalties to be imposed on offenders.

Why regulate now?

In spite of the revised adoption in 1993 of the Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming, developed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the violence aired on television continues to increase. According to an analysis conducted by the Centre des médias at the Université Laval in December 2004, acts of physical violence on television have risen by 286% in ten years; and 81% of violent acts occur in programs beginning before 9 p.m. Furthermore, 29% of the acts of violence in films are psychological in nature.

Sure, some people will say that we can play with the figures, but one piece of evidence is certain: there is enough violence on television to influence the behaviour of our young people. We can only conclude that the voluntary approach by broadcasters does not seem to have produced the results hoped for since, some 15 years after the adoption of the voluntary code, television violence continues to increase, as indicated by the Centre des médias at the Université Laval.

Obviously complete censorship is not an option. I repeat, full censorship is not an option, because it would not be an appropriate response in a democratic society like ours, in which freedom of expression is one of its cornerstones.

To my mind, only a regulatory approach based on the necessary balance between freedom of expression and the protection of our children would offer diversified programming respectful of the various clienteles.

The recent demands, made just last week, by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, for regulations that would prohibit programs with violent content from being aired before 9 p.m., are consistent not only with the spirit of the recommendation made by Coroner Rudel-Tessier, but are also in keeping with Bill C-327, which I am sponsoring today.

The Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the CSQ, which represents 172,000 members, including 100,000 teaching staff—who are in daily contact with our children—was among the first to applaud this bill.

The tragic story of the ten-year-old American and the nine-year-old Pakistani who accidentally hanged themselves by wanting to imitate Saddam Hussein remind us that, even though regulation of television violence is something that must be addressed, it is not a substitute for parental vigilance when it comes to not only the content of television programs, but also video games and Web sites.

The fight I began in 2000 has been fought by activists, daycare stakeholders and teachers.The first name that springs to my mind when I talk about the important fight I am fighting for the protection of our children is that of a young girl, now an adult, and someone you probably knew, Mr. Speaker. Her name is Virginie Larivière. Some years ago, she presented the Conservative government of the day a petition with 1,3 million signatures. The petitioners were Canadian and Quebec citizens who asked for regulations to reduce violence on television.

That young girl, about 10 at the time, introduced that petition it was because we already noticed in the 1990's that there had been an increase in the number of violent scenes on television despite the voluntary code the broadcasters had adopted for themselves in 1987. Despite that code, which was revised in 1993, the figures from the Centre d'études des médias of Laval University were revealing. Between 1995 and 1998, they showed an almost 50% increase in violent acts on television. The scenes of violence children could see—that is during programs broadcast before 9 p.m.—were also clearly on the rise. In 1998, 92% of violent acts were shown before 9 p.m.

The study also showed that one out of every two acts of violence in the study was either a gratuitous representation or unnecessary to understanding what was going on.

In 2000, these 1998 figures alerted me to this issue. Initially, it was my daughter who brought it to my attention, but after finding out more from media specialists, I concluded that TV violence was indeed on the rise. That made the 2000 bill very relevant.

Quebec's civil society leaders and artists mobilized. Why? Because the bill did not seek to limit freedom of expression. It simply sought to restrict programs with violent content to airing after 9 p.m., when children are not watching. It was not, and it still is not, censorship. It was just about adjusting broadcasters' schedules to ensure they respected all members of the viewing public.

This bill seeks to regulate violence on TV.

I would encourage the members to read this bill. It does not even say that violent programs should air only after 9 p.m. That is what I think should happen, and that is the approach I would recommend. This bill merely proposes creating a regulation within the Broadcasting Act so that the CRTC will be responsible for ensuring compliance among licensees and punishing them accordingly.

To what extent should they be punished?

Often, in various environmental files, big polluters get off with light punishments. We cannot let that happen here. The regulatory regime may specify punishment according to the circumstances of the non-compliance. Section 32 of the Broadcasting Act provides that a corporate broadcaster that contravenes CRTC regulations—in this case, a future regulation—may be liable to a fine as high as $250,000 for a first offence and as high as $500,000 for a subsequent offence.

In essence, with this bill, we are asking broadcasters to be good corporate citizens. It is important to understand that our airwaves are public and that we, the public, therefore bear some responsibility for them. But broadcasters have a responsibility to broadcast information that is accurate and does not convey stereotypes, prejudices, racial slurs or statements designed to undermine our society's fundamental rights. We must ensure that our public airwaves respect everyone's rights.

This bill therefore strikes a balance. I know that some of my colleagues believe that this bill could violate the right to freedom of expression. In an attempt to address this concern, we have proposed that violent scenes be broadcast after 9 p.m.

I am pleased to introduce this bill today. As recently as yesterday, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the CSQ, took a clear stand on this bill. The more than 172,000 members of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec decided to support this bill, simply because they work in education.

Anyone who has seen what goes on in our schools and daycare centres will understand why these people are clearly saying that there is a connection between what our children watch and how they behave. It is true of movies and it is sometimes true of cartoons, because cartoon formats changed several years ago.

In order to provide our educators and teachers with tools, we have to create a society that is as non-violent as possible. Of course, this bill will not reduce violence in our society. It is not the answer to violence in our society. There are other areas where we have to take action. I am thinking of the Internet and video games, but this Parliament could certainly take an important step by making sure that our airwaves are less violent and that we can live in a society that is as non-violent as possible.

Bill C-327—Broadcasting ActPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is now obvious that the government raises the issue of royal recommendation each and every time members of the opposition parties introduce a private member's bill.

I well recall how the government used the same tactic when Bill C-288 was introduced by my colleague from Honoré-Mercier.

If my bill were to be implemented, there would be no fundamental change in the role the CRTC plays. All we ask is that new regulations be adopted under the Broadcasting Act. We really do not need new public monies to have the CRTC apply the legislative changes I propose in Bill C-327.

Under that bill, we could very well go ahead and evaluate the situation without necessarily requiring supplementary funds.

In fact, the CRTC has already made a study of violence on television and published reports on the issue. Consequently, it would be very possible to fulfill the complete mandate of the CRTC and to adopt the changes I propose without new public funds.

Bill C-327—Broadcasting ActPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, my point of order is on Bill C-327.

Without commenting on the merits of this private member's bill, I would appreciate your consideration of whether this bill requires a royal recommendation under Standing Order 79. Clauses 1 and 2 of the bill add a new purpose to the Broadcasting Act to:

—contribute to solving the problem of violence in society by reducing violence in the programming offered to the public, including children.

To meet this purpose, the bill would provide new powers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, also known as the CRTC, to regulate violence on television, verify broadcasters compliance, issue annual reports and undertake a five year review, including holding consultations. These are new responsibilities for the CRTC which were not previously authorized by the Broadcasting Act. They would clearly require new government expenditures.

Precedence clearly established that a change in purpose requiring new expenditures must be accompanied by a royal recommendation. On May 9, 2005, the Chair ruled:

— bills which involve new or additional spending for a distinct purpose must be recommended by the Crown. The royal recommendation is also required where a bill alters the appropriation of public revenue “under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out” in the bill.

What this means is that a royal recommendation is not only required in a case where more money is being appropriated, but also in a case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is being significantly altered.

On February 8, 2005, the Speaker ruled:

Where it is clear that the legislative objective of a bill cannot be accomplished without the dedication of public funds to that objective, the bill must be seen as the equivalent of a bill effecting an appropriation.

On September 17, 2006, the Speaker noted that the sections of the bill:

—with regard to the process of petitioning and reporting, are also functions which would require the authorization of spending for a new and distinct purpose.

I note that the new purpose for Bill C-327 is established by the operational obligation which clause 3 places on the CRTC for regulating, reporting and reviewing and by clauses 1 and 2, which would amend the overall broadcasting and regulatory policies in the Broadcasting Act.

I therefore submit that the bill in its entirety requires a royal recommendation.

Broadcasting ActRoutine Proceedings

June 19th, 2006 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to introduce a bill to reduce television violence, particularly during peak viewing hours for children.

A recent study by Laval University showed that acts of violence shown on television have tripled since 1994. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Act to create a regulation governing television violence. The CRTC would be responsible for monitoring how large broadcasters apply the regulation that would be created by the bill I am introducing today.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)