Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act

An Act to restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2021.


Senate bill, now waiting to be considered in the House, as of June 28, 2021
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment makes it an offence to make sexually explicit material available to young persons on the Internet. It also enables a designated enforcement authority to take steps to prevent sexually explicit material from being made available to young persons on the Internet in Canada.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2023 / 6 p.m.
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Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S‑210. Before I begin, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. We are in favour of it being studied at committee so that we can have a more in-depth discussion to ensure that we protect minors, which is a major public safety challenge. The Bloc Québécois's position is consistent with initiatives to strengthen protection of the public, particularly for minors.

Introduced by Julie Miville‑Dechêne, the independent senator with whom I co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, Bill S‑210 seeks to put in place safeguards to restrict minors' access to sexually explicit material on the Internet. I will begin with an overview of the issue, then I will further explain the Bloc Québécois's position, and finally I will close with examples of other support for Bill S‑210.

First, let us note that making sexually explicit material available to minors for commercial purposes is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to $250,000. This makes it a criminal offence for organizations to make this type of content available to young people. The term “organization” echoes the definition in section 2 of the Criminal Code. Furthermore, the Federal Court could order that websites contravening the law be blocked. The definition of “organization” includes any public body, body corporate, society, company, firm, partnership or association of persons that is created for a common purpose, has an operational structure and holds itself out to the public as an association of persons. This makes it possible to directly target commercial pornography distributors.

The bill is motivated by a concern to better supervise access to sexually explicit material online, as age verification is currently limited to a simple declaration. Under Bill S‑210, pornographic sites will be required to verify the age of their users. The bill essentially replicates Bill S‑203, which was sponsored by the same senator. That bill died on the Order Paper at the end of the 43rd Parliament, and now the senator is trying again.

The digital landscape our young people have grown up with makes it easy to view degrading and even extreme content that normalizes the objectification of women and dominant relationships. This type of video and image content is available on platforms owned by companies that do not fulfill any meaningful requirement to ensure that the people viewing it are adults. It would be unrealistic to entrust companies that disseminate pornographic content with verifying the age of the individuals accessing it. Bill S‑210 would assign that responsibility to a third party, an intermediary designated by regulations.

With the emergence of computer technology that enables parties to disseminate and access sexually explicit content, the government has a responsibility to prevent minors from accessing it, as much as possible. Given the obscene nature of this material and the harmful impact on young people's brain development, things cannot be kept in check by self-regulation alone. Bill S‑210 lays out broad principles for verifying the age of people accessing pornographic content in order to prevent those under 18 from accessing it. Once this bill is passed, it will provide authority to make regulations prescribing the specific methods to achieve that.

Bill S-210 will also have consequences for pornographic sites, whether hosted on Canadian soil or not, that might contravene it. The government will be able to block sites that fail to comply with future regulations on age verification. Let us not forget that the minimum age to view pornographic films is 18.

Obviously, I am not a magician and I do not have a magic wand. No one can ignore the fact that this bill is not a silver bullet. A minor who wants to view pornography illegally could resort to circumvention methods like virtual private networks and so on to get around the age validation mechanisms. I remain realistic and I am not naive. However, even if Bill S-210 does not turn out to be the silver bullet that completely eradicates this scourge, there is a good chance that it will have beneficial effects and further restrict access for minors. In that respect, the objective will be met.

Second, I would like to remind the House that the Bloc Québécois will always support measures that seek to protect the public and promote a healthy lifestyle. Bill S-210 responds to a real concern in our communities. The Bloc Québécois reacted when disturbing revelations were made about MindGeek's Internet Pornhub, which is one of the most popular pornographic sites in Canada and well-known in Quebec, since the company is based in Montreal. We knew that data was being collected on the most popular video categories, common themes in video titles and the best-known actors in the adult film industry. While the United States held an inquiry and other parts of the world, including Europe, are considering this issue and taking action, Canada has been slow to act.

There is data confirming that access to explicit material is harmful if it ends up in the hands of minors, particularly young girls. With femicide and violence against women on the rise, our society has a duty to restrict access—to the greatest extent possible—to explicit content that is said to promote such violence.

In fact, we are just a few days away from the sad commemoration of the Polytechnique femicide, which occurred on December 6, 1989. I recently heard on the radio that there are still people today who worship Marc Lépine and wish women dead. It is chilling. Misogyny still exists. Keep in mind that many cities are passing motions to declare gender-based violence an epidemic and to pressure legislators to act on it within their respective jurisdictions.

Third, other groups also support this bill. Many stakeholders and civil society groups, including the Association des pédiatres du Québec, support the initiative embodied by Bill S-210. Allowing young minors to be exposed to pornography has consequences. Viewing pornography early in life has extremely negative effects, including the inability to develop healthy relationships. These young people can also develop a misconception that women and girls are sexual objects, available for sex 24-7, with no consent required. Worse still, it can create a dependency on pornography. In some cases, this can even lead to financial problems that can ruin lives, because pornography is not free. In fact, the industry is highly lucrative.

This proposal therefore crosses party lines and will likely receive support from all political parties represented in the House of Commons. This is no trivial matter.

It is also important to know that the Standing Committee on the Status of Women is currently studying the trafficking of women, girls and gender-diverse people. Although we may not be able to comment yet on the committee's eventual findings, many stakeholders pointed out in their briefs that human trafficking is closely linked to pornography and the coercive relationships that pimps maintain with their victims in order to get them to perform sex acts.

In the studies that follow our committee, from the study on intimate partner violence to the one on change of culture in sport, the concept of educating young men and women constantly comes up when we talk about preventing all forms of violence. In particular, this includes the need to offer an education on healthy sexuality.

For young girls, mental health problems are exacerbated by the pressure they feel from seeing manipulated, even degrading, images of the female body and sexuality that are projected by pornography. They may even end up being subjected to unwanted sexual acts that are dangerous to their health and unsafe for their body. By its very nature, Bill S‑210 will help curb the dissemination of pornography on the Internet and protect the victims from the humiliating exposure of illegal material.

The bill will make organizations accountable and subject them to a new offence if they make such content available. This will give victims an additional tool to help them reclaim their dignity and punish their abusers. We have also been hearing that young women are often filmed without their knowledge and that those images are being posted when the young women are not even aware that they have been filmed. It is really worrisome to see so many images that were taken without consent being freely shared on the Internet.

In closing, Bill S-210 is important to create tools to ensure that women, children and girls are protected from the negative effects of early exposure to pornographic images online. As a new mother, I must admit that I worry about the future of my daughter, and I truly hope that, unlike me, she will never have to say “me too”. We need to do something about the femicides that the Secretary General of the United Nations described as a shadow pandemic. This problem was exacerbated by overexposure to the Internet during the pandemic. It created all sorts of problems, including these ones. We need to take action so that we can say collectively, “not one more”.

Age Verification SoftwarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 26th, 2022 / 4:35 p.m.
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Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, my third petition calls for the passing of last Parliament's Bill S-203, which in this Parliament is now Bill S-210. The petitioners are concerned about how easy it is for young people to access sexually explicit material online, including violent and degrading explicit material. They comment on how this access is an important public health and public safety concern. Petitioners note that a significant portion of commercially accessed sexually explicit material has no age verification software. Moreover, the age verification software can ascertain the age of users without breaching their privacy rights.

Petitioners note that many serious harms associated with sexually explicit material include the development of addiction and the development of attitudes favourable to sexual violence and harassment of women. As such, these petitioners call on the House of Commons to pass legislation protecting young people.

Age Verification SoftwarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 24th, 2022 / 10:10 a.m.
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Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to present a petition signed by Canadians from across our country who share their concerns about the widespread availability of sexually explicit material online that includes demeaning material and material that depicts sexual violence. Although it is a very lengthy petition that has a number of asks, these petitioners simply ask that the House adopt Bill S-203, a bill coming from the Senate that I believe was known in the last Parliament as the protecting young persons from exposure to pornography act. It is a simple act that would have meaningful age verification to protect Canada's young people.

PornographyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 20th, 2021 / 10:10 a.m.
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Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition I am presenting today is from petitioners across Canada who are calling on the government to recognize sexual explicit material online is many times depicting sexual violence and could be easily accessed by young people. The consumption of sexually explicit material by young persons is associated with a wide range of harms, including pornography addiction, the reinforcing of gender stereotypes, and the development of attitudes favourable to harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence particularly against women.

Petitioners are calling on the government to recognize the harmful impacts of the increasing accessibility of sexually explicit material online for young persons. They are calling on the quick passage of Bill S-203 in the other place and for the government to recognize it. They are calling for the government to rapidly pass this bill.

April 19th, 2021 / 11:15 a.m.
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National Coordinator, Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform

Jennifer Clamen


Hopefully you can hear me say that the irony of you not being able to hear me while I'm talking about sex workers not being heard is not lost. Hopefully that will give all of you a little smile for the day. Maybe you can't hear that.

Madame Gaudreau, you cannot hear me say it still? You can? You thought my joke was funny, fantastic.

I'll just continue on some of the principles that underscored our recommendations.

The last few are around how singling out sex workers and activities related to sex work for additional prohibitive or additional repression is virtually always harmful for people working in the sex industry. Some of the briefs that you received, particularly the one from West Coast LEAF and other partners, really outlined the evidence around that.

Any legislation or policy or repressive measure that you're thinking of right now should really maximize the autonomy of sex workers to be able to work as safely as possible in keeping with sex workers' human rights to safe working conditions, liberty, privacy, non-discrimination and dignity.

I'll finish up now, but there's been a lot of discussion around youth in this committee as well. There's been a lot of conflation of issues with youth, and exploitation, and sex industry, human trafficking; these words are being bandied about very carelessly. In our recommendations for law reform, we also took the time with the hundreds and hundreds of sex workers to talk about recommendations for youth. I also wanted to share those with you too, because our recommendations really stem from recognizing the agency of people, and that includes people under 18, and by agency meaning the capacity to think, and the capacity to make decisions in a given set of conditions that anybody is living on.

The entire focus on child exploitation and human trafficking in this committee has been completely overblown. That is not to suggest these things don't exist in real space and time, but they have been overblown with respect to the conversations in this committee. The framing of all content online as youth exploitation really undermines sex workers' ability to keep safe and makes it harder to address violence in the industry. When we see everything as violence in the industry, it's hard to understand when sex workers are actually experiencing violence.

The alliance's groups recommend the following principles with respect to understanding youth and any regulations that involves youth: a harm reduction approach that requires authorities to use the least intrusive approach towards youth with the emphasis on preserving community; and a recognition that repression, apprehension, detention and rehabilitation are often experienced as antagonistic and traumatic and often push youth away from supports rather than towards supports.

The alliance's member groups also recommend a reliance on existing laws rather than the creation of new laws, additional regulations and law enforcement measures that move people away from supports rather than towards supports.

I'll conclude by saying that last week we heard Bill Blair say what all sex workers were fearing as a result of this committee. We were assured it had nothing to do with committee, but we heard Bill Blair say that he was thinking of creating a new regulatory body that would be created for online content. We can't stress enough that more regulation is not the answer and that it will just actually harm sex workers and harm the industry in general with respect to sex workers' rights.

There's also the ongoing parallel work of Bill S-203 submitted to the Senate by Julie Miville-Dechêne.

On top of this there's the continual refusal of Parliament to decriminalize sex work, despite the evidence that regulation and criminalization harms sex workers.

Targeting Internet sex work during a pandemic is such an aggressive and violent move on your part and on the part of everybody who's considering regulation right now. The Internet has been a safe haven for so many workers who are unable to face the conditions of COVID like so many sex workers. Some sex workers, but not all, have moved online and have been able to support themselves this way, so it is important, now more than ever, to protect these spaces and to ensure that sex workers can continue to work without violence and exploitation.

If you want to know how to protect people on platforms like Pornhub, create a committee, sit down with people who actually post their content on Pornhub, sit down with sex workers and talk to us.

Thank you.