An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (child sexual abuse and exploitation material)


Mel Arnold  Conservative

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


In committee (Senate), as of June 1, 2023

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-291.


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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to replace the term “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse and exploitation material” and makes consequential amendments to other Acts.


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.


Feb. 1, 2023 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (child sexual abuse and exploitation material)
Nov. 23, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (child sexual abuse material)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2023 / 4:45 p.m.
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Frank Caputo Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise on behalf of the people from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

Before I begin, I want to recognize that my wife's nephew, Dustin Dempsey, passed away this week. Obviously, this is quite unfortunate. He was quite young. He leaves behind his father, Rio, who is my wife's brother, and his mother, Vivian. My condolences go out to the whole family. May perpetual light shine upon him.

I also want to send my condolences to a high school friend of mine and her family, Stacey Gagnon. Her father, Leslie Gagnon, or Les as he was commonly known, passed away recently. I offer my deepest condolences as well to her family. May perpetual light shine upon him.

I find it interesting that I am here talking about this. There is something that I would have likely spoken about with my students when I was teaching an advanced criminal law or sentencing class at Thompson Rivers University in the Faculty of Law. It is a course that has since been taken over by one of my mentors, Judge Greg Koturbash. He is teaching tomorrow, so this may come up.

I would have spoken about the notion of dialogue. That dialogue is between a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada and Parliament. What we have often seen when it comes to criminal matters is that the courts speak and Parliament is supposed to respond. However, it feels as though often, with the Liberal government, the courts speak and Parliament does not respond.

One of the things that I noticed here is that Parliament has not responded when it comes to sexual offences. I put the minister on the spot and I anticipate he is going to ask me a question, and I invite him to ask a question.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to look directly at him. I asked the minister, in a question, whether he supports restricting the use of conditional sentence orders, that is house arrest or jail in the community, particularly for people who offend against children. Yes or no? I really hope he addresses that question when we have time for questions and answers.

There is something that struck me and stuck out to me. This is the first provision. It is speaking about changing one of the provisions, somehow it got missed, section 153.1(1)(a) from five years to 10 years. I believe that is the sexual exploitation of a person with a disability. It says a person will be liable, on indictment, to 10 years.

Here is what is interesting about that, and it really frustrates me. It is not that we are raising it; it is that we are not raising it high enough. I tabled Bill C-299. I was heckled by the Liberals when I did it, but this is the thrust of Bill C-299. I am going to go through it one more time because I think it is extremely important and it is germane to this discussion when we talk about protecting children, which the Minister of Justice has said is a primary aim of this bill.

We have various offences in the Criminal Code that will end with a potential life imprisonment, as in life is the maximum sentence, and the one I always go to is robbery. Robbery is the deliberate taking of property without consent. Theft plus violence is robbery. It is the most basic thing.

What is sexual assault? What is a sexual offence? A sexual offence is a sexual element, violence and a lack of consent. What is the maximum term here? It is 10 years. The maximum term for sexual assault against an adult is 10 years. The maximum for most sexual offences against children is 14 years, yet we are falling into that same trap here.

We actually are valuing and saying that the taking of property without consent is more serious than taking somebody's sexual dignity without consent. It is only 10 years. That is what someone's dignity, inviolability and consent is worth: 10 years. It is incumbent on this chamber, and I will say to every single person here, that Parliament address this.

I would ask every single person here: Do members prefer to be robbed or prefer to be sexually assaulted? I can tell everyone right now, a hundred times out of a hundred, most people here would say, “I would take the robbery.” Why? It is because there is something about our bodily dignity. There is something about our bodily integrity.

There are victims, like the people with My Voice, My Choice, who spoke so eloquently to me in the past, who I found to be so compelling in their presentation. People in that position are often serving a psychological life sentence. When I ask the Minister of Justice whether he supports house arrest when these people are in a psychological jail themselves, there is a reason for it.

We, as legislators, have not kept up with the research that tells us the pernicious effects, and sometimes the insidious effects, of sexual violence against children. Yes, a registry is one step, but punishment itself is a primary step. I do put it to the Minister of Justice and hope he asks a question. It will just be a simple “yes” or “no”. Does he support the elimination of conditional sentence orders for sexual offences, particularly sexual offences against children?

My message here is not just for all of us here. We talked about a dialogue. Mr. Iacobucci talked about that in one of his decisions from many years ago. This is a dialogue I wish to have with judges, Crown prosecutors, of whom I was one, defence lawyers, and most importantly, victims: that those of us who are in this chamber will stand up for victims every single chance we get.

I have said it before and I will say it again. If we, as Conservatives, if I, myself, as the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, am ever given an opportunity to legislate in this area, I will not take my foot off the gas pedal until the views of every victim in this country are represented and the gravity of offences, particularly offences of a sexual nature against children, are adequately reflected in the punishment received by those who would take the innocence of a child.

I do have some experience with the publication ban end of things. It is something my colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke asked my colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul after her excellent presentation. I can remember, and it is one of the first times I can ever remember this happening, where a victim set aside her publication ban. We did have a number of people from My Voice, My Choice come forward and say, “I have been a victim. Please leave it to me whether or not I get to speak.” That will debated at committee. My hope is a representative from that group will be permitted to attend.

This legislation also imparts a new application for a victim that they can put an application forward and that the court must hold a hearing to determine whether the order is revoked, and will include the victim's wishes. Far too often we do not incorporate the victims. They are an afterthought.

Sentencing is so often an offender-centred approach, and I understand why. They are the person. However, when we ultimately look at who is impacted, it is not just the offender who is impacted, particularly when we are talking about sexual offences. One of the primary offences, for instance, is section 163.1 listed here as “child pornography”. It is my hope that term will never be used again in this legislation.

Bill C-291, which I drafted and my colleague from the Okanagan put forward, is currently at third reading in the Senate. It would change the name of “child pornography“ to “child sexual abuse and exploitation material” to reflect the actual harm done.

I see I am running of time. I hope the Minister of Justice rises right now in questions and comments to indicate whether he does favour eliminating house arrest for those who would steal the innocence of children when those children are themselves abused.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 1st, 2023 / 4:05 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C‑291 under Private Members' Business.

The House resumed from January 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (child sexual abuse and exploitation material), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2023 / 5:45 p.m.
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Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, as always, it is an honour to rise in this House as the representative of the great people of North Okanagan—Shuswap as I make some final comments on Bill C-291.

Bill C-291 proposes to change the term in the Criminal Code from “child pornography” to “child sexual abuse and exploitation material”. I would like to acknowledge and again thank my colleague, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, who drafted this bill after recognizing the need for Criminal Code amendments that this bill proposes. I also acknowledge members from all parties who have made meaningful contributions to the development of this bill, both in this chamber and at committee stage.

Committee review of the bill strengthened it by adding the words “and exploitation” to the proposed new term in the original bill, and I thank the parliamentary secretary and the Minister of Justice for their collaboration and continuation on this important initiative.

Expressions of support and collaboration from all sides reflect that this bill is a step in the right direction, a step that must be followed by more steps: additional steps toward strengthening the Criminal Code and other federal laws to increase protection of children; additional steps to increase capacities of those entrusted with enforcing and prosecuting offences; and additional steps to support healing and recovery of those victimized by child sexual abuse and exploitation.

I want to thank people who have approached me in North Okanagan—Shuswap on the streets and at events to express their support and appreciation for this bill. The spontaneous face-to-face support from constituents is always reassuring that we are moving in the right direction. I also thank all of the Canadians who supported the bill by signing petition e-4154 initiated by Rachel Enns back home in Vernon. I would especially like to acknowledge and thank the organizations that have expressed support for this bill, that work every day to fight child sexual abuse and exploitation.

I look forward to the vote on Bill C-291 and I hope all members support this important bill to move it forward and send it to the other place toward completion so that it will establish the proposed changes in Canada's Criminal Code.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2023 / 5:35 p.m.
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Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C‑291. Some bills seem less substantial than others, but are just as important. The bill amends the Criminal Code to replace the term “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse and exploitation material” and make consequential amendments to other acts. Words sometimes carry great weight.

As I just mentioned, this bill makes no other changes than replacing the term “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse and exploitation material”, and has no legal consequences per se.

First, I want to say that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. Even though this bill has no legal consequences, it does make us think about the importance of terms, their scope and their deep meaning. According to the bill's sponsor, the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap, the objective is to link the charge of child pornography to sexual abuse. Without changing the definitions, since the notions of consent and current sentences will stay the same, Bill C‑291 explicitly expresses the fact that such an offence is an act involving the sexual abuse of a child.

We understand and support the underlying principle. In my speech, I will share my thoughts on the importance of the words used to provide additional detail about this bill, reiterate the importance of training judges and conclude by expanding my argument to include cybercrime.

First, the term “pornography” seems overused and ambiguous in the sense of both the legal definition and the general definition, because its scope is very relative and can depend on a given individual's sensitivity. Moreover, some schools of thought disagree on the degree of consent pornography supposes and whether pornography is essentially a form of violence. Some feminist thinkers see it that way, and regular consumption of pornography also contributes to rape culture.

One thing is clear: Pornography in and of itself is not a crime, but there are the exceptions we are all familiar with, including child pornography. In other cases, it is difficult to see a clear and consensual difference between eroticism and obscenity, pornography and violence. It all comes down to the participants' consent, which is impossible to establish or obtain. When children are involved, the Criminal Code pretty clearly defines the acts, but I will spare my colleagues a reading of that.

It is understandable to be shocked by the fact that a term with no criminal or even negative connotations is attached to such despicable acts, hence the principle of Bill C-291. In the healing process, it is important, from the outset, that the victim is relieved of guilt about the events and that the burden is carried by the abuser. Naming the abuse can also help the victim. It may not seem important, but being a victim of child pornography does not have the same connotation as being a victim of child sexual abuse. A person charged with possession of child pornography will not be charged with sexual assault. However, they are indirectly participating in it by not reporting it and by taking advantage of the situation to deliberately indulge their deviant urges.

Most of the time, the victim is not mentioned in child pornography cases, except to say that they were indeed a child. When we talk about child sexual abuse material, we are doing two things: We are naming the abuse that the child is suffering, and we are calling the accused a child molester. These are much more powerful words, even though we are talking about the same act. They put things in perspective. In a crime involving child pornography, there is a victim of abuse and there is an abuser, the child molester.

In many types of crime, there is often a grey area, extenuating circumstances, possible doubt over the degree of guilt, participation and consent of the victim. In the case of child abuse, everything is clear and we have to call a spade a spade.

What is more, this term is already being used by some advocacy groups, including the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and Canada's national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children. Children are disproportionately the victims of sexual offences and are especially vulnerable. In Quebec, 54.4%, or the majority, of victims of sexual assault are adults, but the number of victims under 18 is growing faster than the number of adult victims, with annual increases of 9.5% and 4.3% respectively. Victims of other sexual offences are nearly exclusively minors, at 90.8%. These offences include sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching, luring and publication of intimate images.

These statistics make it clear why victims and their loved ones feel as though these situations are being downplayed.

If an offence is not a direct aggravated sexual assault, then it gets classified under “other offences”. In reality, however, the possession of child pornography often involves sexual assault that is often even documented.

According to the Quebec Department of Public Safety, these types of crimes are on the rise. Cases of sexual interference and luring have risen by 6% and 9% respectively. These are moderate increases. Cases of incest have risen by 4.3%. Cases of publication of an intimate image without consent have risen by 7.4%, and cases of invitation to sexual touching have risen by 1.4%, and that number has held steady. These are chilling statistics.

Sexual acts and activities must only take place with the free and informed consent of the participants. The concept of consent is essential. It is based on the idea that the person is fit to make a decision and that they understand the implications and consequences.

In Canada, the age of consent to sexual activity is 16. However, in the case of all minors, including those who are aged 16 and 17, a young person cannot legally consent if a sexual partner is in a position of authority over them. If the young person is dependent on their sexual partner for support and has nowhere else to go and no one else to care for them, then they are in a relationship of dependency.

The relationship is exploitative when, as of the age of 12, there are close-in-age exceptions. A person who is 12 or 13 can consent to sexual activity if their partner is less than two years older. A person who is 14 or 15 can consent to sexual activity if their partner is less than five years older. That means that even if one of the partners is over the age of majority, as in the case of a couple consisting of a 15-year-old and a 19-year-old, consenting sexual contact can take place with a minor as long as they are close in age.

This also means that, conversely, in a situation where one member of the couple is over the age of majority, as in the case of a 14-year-old and a 19-year-old, the child cannot legally consent to sexual activity and the act becomes a sexual offence, even with the consent of the minor's parents. There is no possibility of consent when a child is under the age of 12.

It is worth noting that the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill in committee took only 30 minutes. This is an uncontroversial bill, despite the number of amendments that were moved. In fact, most of the amendments came from the government. There was absolutely no debate on the substance of the bill, and all the amendments proposed by the government, 15 in all, were adopted unanimously. This is important work. Amendments G-1 and G-12 essentially added the notion of exploitation to the term “child sexual abuse material” to make it clear that possession of such material automatically involves the exploitation of a child. Naturally, these amendments were also adopted.

Also, not all judges have the knowledge required to deal with sexual assault cases or cases involving certain groups. We have been talking about this for a long time. Training for judges is important. The case of Judge Jean-Paul Braun is a shocking example. He said out loud during a trial that the victim, who was a minor at the time of the assault, had a pretty face and should feel flattered to have attracted the attention of an older man. An Alberta judge was fired after making what were considered sexist and racist remarks about indigenous people, abused women and victims of sexual assault.

An acquittal was overturned because a judge who found a man accused of sexually assaulting children not guilty relied on stereotypes. The judge suggested that, because nobody noticed anything, the girl, who was only between the ages of 6 and 12 at the time, was not credible. The judge said the child's testimony was not transparent, reliable, sincere or credible. Forcing all judges to participate in sexual assault and social context training would destroy certain stereotypes and myths that influence judges' decisions and their attitudes toward victims.

Fortunately, Bill C‑3 called on the Canadian Judicial Council to ensure that federal judicial appointees to various courts have the tools to help them preside over sexual assault cases. My colleague from Rivière-du-Nord, who worked on that bill, pointed that out. The third time around, Bill C‑3 was finally unanimously passed by all MPs. It was passed on division in the Senate and received royal assent on May 6, 2021. It is an important bill.

In addition, the whole issue of cybercrime is also troubling. Last week, I had a chance to talk with Hugo Loiseau, a professor at the Université de Sherbrooke who is studying this issue. A cybercrime is a criminal offence committed through a computer system that is usually connected to another network. This whole issue of child pornography content, along with incitement to terrorism or hatred, falls under the category of cybercrime.

In conclusion, the All Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking is following this issue closely and is considering recommendations that could be made to the government to take action.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2023 / 5:25 p.m.
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Leslyn Lewis Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, it is truly an honour to rise this evening to speak to and express my support for this very important bill. This bill was brought forward by the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap. Bill C-291 is an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts, namely child sex abuse material.

I will underscore the fact that words do, indeed, matter. Definitions matter and language matters. It matters for the elected officials and the staff who work in this House of Commons. It is why the legislative drafters write the technical text of legislation and spend hours upon hours and days upon days refining and crafting the language.

Once a bill becomes law, it sets the parameters and the boundaries of behaviour within a free and democratic society. Bill C-291 is a very important bill that would ensure that there is no confusion around what “child pornography” actually is. It is child abuse.

As a former litigator, I am proud to see a common-sense and important change being proposed. As a mother, I am encouraged to see this House take action to protect and fight for our children, our country's most precious gift.

Changing the term “child pornography” in our federal laws to “child sexual abuse and exploitation” is not just semantics. If we understand the power of our words, especially when codified, then we know that this change will affect how we see and categorize this evil perpetrated against our children, and how we must all unite and fight against it.

This change would increase the clarity, the understanding and the precision in our legislative and legal framework. It would recognize that when pornography involves children, make no mistake, it is not pornography; it is sexual abuse material.

As Judge Koturbash said in a decision on this subject, “These are not actors. It is not consensual. These are images and videos of child sexual abuse.”

This kind of material is abhorrent. It cannot be consensual. These images are serious and they cause lifelong damage and trauma to children. Therefore, we must fight it with every tool that we have at our disposal in society. Without clarity and precision in our laws, and in the Criminal Code, there is confusion.

In this case, as Judge Koturbash said the current phrase “child pornography” actually dilutes the true meaning of what these images and videos represent. This change will recognize that children are victimized by such material.

As has been mentioned earlier, here in Canada, the age of consent for sexual activity is 16. There is no legal basis for a child to consent to participate in such material, and this, absent of consent, constitutes abuse and exploitation.

Around the world, we have been seeing similar initiatives to make this clear distinction. Child advocacy groups in the United States, like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, as well as the 2016 Luxembourg Guidelines, which were put forward by 18 international partners, have sought to harmonize the terms and definitions that relate to child abuse and protection.

We need to see more decisive action from the government to bring perpetrators of sexual violence to justice. We need laws that will prosecute the broadcasting of sexual abuse and violence materials. We need laws that will make it clear that it is a crime to sexually exploit children.

This is one small but very significant step forward in protecting vulnerable boys and girls in Canada. Once again, I want to commend and thank the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap for his excellent work. I also want to thank the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo for his work on this bill.

I believe this bill reflects the collective strength of this united House and that we will stand together in denouncing child abuse and strengthen the laws to protect children from all forms of abuse. I believe that this bill would save lives. It is my honour to publicly support and vote for this bill.

The House resumed from December 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (child sexual abuse and exploitation material), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2022 / 6:30 p.m.
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Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to start by expressing my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Jim Carr. He was a devoted parliamentarian who worked tirelessly for his community. He will be missed forever.

I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-291, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts, regarding child sexual abuse and exploitation material, introduced by the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap on June 17.

At the outset, I would like to acknowledge and thank my colleague for introducing this bill, which has a very important objective, to ensure that the terminology used to refer to child pornography means that this harmful material is actually abuse of children.

The Government of Canada is committed to preventing and protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation of any kind, including in Canada and abroad.

Canada works closely with international partners to combat online child sexual exploitation—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2022 / 6:20 p.m.
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Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, this includes materials such as works of fiction that promote the sexual abuse of children, as well as the sexualized portrayal of adults as children. I am pleased that the new term was adopted unanimously by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as it is an important step towards bringing Canada in line with the general trend away from the term “child pornography”.

The second amendment proposed by the government is an entirely new provision, a one-year coming-into-force provision for the entire bill. I am pleased that this measure, too, was adopted unanimously by the committee.

This proposed amendment came about as a result of studying Bill C-291 after it was introduced. The government noted that the federal regulations made pursuant to An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service would require amending as a result of this bill, as they contain the term “child pornography”.

Those regulations will not be amended as a result of the enactment of Bill C-291 and, therefore, time would be required to get the process under way. I also learned that there are at least 50 pieces of provincial and territorial legislation from across Canada that incorporate or make reference to the term “child pornography” as defined by the Criminal Code, statutes as well as regulations.

Giving the provinces time to adapt their legislation, if they wish, to ensure the coherence of the legislation across Canada, is an important government responsibility. The one-year coming-into-force period would allow time for those amendments to be made in their respective jurisdictions. This delayed coming into force would also allow time for necessary administrative changes to be made at both the federal and provincial levels in places such as courts administrative systems and IT systems.

Finally, the third amendment proposed by the government, which was also unanimously passed in the committee, was the addition of a transitional clause. This new provision would assist participants in the criminal justice system to understand how ongoing proceedings that use the term “child pornography” would be affected on the date of the this bill coming into force.

This new provision clearly states that the changes of terminology would not affect the validity of any ongoing proceedings that have already begun under the old term “child pornography”. Similarly, the validity of any documents related to those proceedings would not be affected by the change in terminology.

In short, this transitional clause tells the criminal justice system participants that this change is a change in the name only. There should be no impacts on ongoing prosecutions as a result.

These three government amendments will, I believe, better achieve the objectives of not only calling these materials what they truly are, but also ensuring that the transition to the new terminology is done in a coherent and non-disruptive way.

I would like to thank the members of the justice committee for voting in favour of the government's amendments and for co-operating in bringing this bill through the House so quickly.

It should not be a surprise to members that the pandemic has contributed to a rise in the sexual offences committed against children, nor should it be a surprise that these offences are primarily committed via telecommunications networks.

In fiscal year 2021-22, the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Crime Centre received 81,799 complaints, reports and requests for assistance relating to online child sexual exploitation. This was a 56% increase compared to the previous fiscal year and an 854% increase compared to 2013-14.

Police-reported crime data from Statistics Canada which includes the first year of the pandemic indicates that incidents of making or distributing child pornography increased by 26% in 2021 compared to 2019. Possession of or accessing child pornography increased by 44% in 2021 compared to 2019 and represents a 146% increase since 2017.

There are many things needed to help combat child sexual exploitation. Clearly, we need to have comprehensive and robust criminal laws against it. We need to have strong and effective law enforcement. We need to continue to advance and support measures that seek to meet the needs of victims and survivors. The government supports the national strategy for the protection of children from sexual exploitation on the Internet, which has four pillars: raising awareness, reducing the stigma associated with reporting, increasing Canada's ability to pursue and prosecute offenders, and working with tech leaders to find new ways to combat the online sexual exploitation of children.

I want to conclude by expressing my thanks to the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap for sponsoring this important bill and for co-operating with all parties to bring it to the House.

I also am thankful for the opportunity to speak.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2022 / 6:20 p.m.
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Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to join the third reading debate on Bill C-291, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts, regarding child sexual abuse and exploitation material, which was introduced on June 17, 2022, by the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
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Tracy Gray Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak today on this important legislation, Bill C-291, from my Conservative colleagues, the members for North Okanagan—Shuswap and Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, and to help move this piece of legislation along.

Changing the term “child pornography” to “child sexual abuse and exploitation material” is not only more accurate, but the terms “abuse”, “sexual abuse” and “exploitation” also currently exist in the Criminal Code and better align with the facts. As a mother, I have to say that I am not sure what could be more disturbing than child exploitation through sexual abuse material. The victims are children, and the unimaginable robbing of children of their innocence should be reflected in our Criminal Code.

Our 21st century digital age has brought many great things to our lives, but it has allowed the darkest and most pervasive crimes imaginable to be available to anyone. As a result, the ability of predators to monetize their evil behaviour means more children than ever are at a risk of repeat victimization.

It is shocking that in 2021 there was a 14% increase in sexual violations against children. A Statistics Canada 2021 report detailed how child sexual abuse material is a growing problem across Canada. We need to sharpen our laws so they ensure that the prosecution and punishment of offenders reflects the crime. Words do matter, and it is important this bill passes quickly in this place.

I am proud to support this bill, and I call on all members to join the Conservatives in acting to protect innocent victims, the children of today, who are the leaders of tomorrow.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2022 / 6 p.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to take a moment, since it is my first time rising since the passing of our colleague Jim Carr, who was the member for Winnipeg South Centre, to express my condolences to his family and friends and to say that I faced Jim across the aisle here for quite a long time. The flowers on his desk today certainly remind us all of his absence. We often shared a nod, a headshake or a smile at things that happened in the chamber. He was one of the MPs who exemplified to me the best of what it means to be a member of Parliament.

Turning to the subject at hand, Bill C-291, the NDP will be supporting this bill as it has been retitled, “child sexual abuse and exploitation material”.

I accept the good intentions of its author and its sponsor in the House, and I believe that it is more than magical thinking, as some have accused. I think it is about making clear what we are doing and what we are condemning. We are broadening that definition so we can more easily get prosecutions done under this new title of “child sexual abuse and exploitation material”, and removing the word “pornography” takes away the sense that, somehow, there was anything ever consensual about these kinds of materials and activities when they involve children.

Those in the House now know that this is part of my own story. I stand in the House not just as an ally of child sexual abuse survivors but as one of them. I have a strong message for all of those out there, every time I speak, and it is that this could happen to anyone. It has happened to many of us, and it need not destroy our entire life, but it is a burden that we will carry forward. I am glad to see all of us supporting strong action against these kinds of crimes against children.

When it comes to child abuse and sexual exploitation, we know what works, and I am hoping that those who have sponsored the bill and all of us who are supporting this bill will also be there when it comes time to have additional resources for enforcement, and when it comes time for additional supports for those who have survived these crimes. I trust that we will all be there when that time comes.

I trust what the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap said today, in that we can agree to keep our speeches short and to limit the number to make sure that this bill can pass today before we rise for the holiday.

I know that there have been some discussions and some back and forth here today, and I am siding with the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap in that hope that we can do our best to make sure this is concluded so we can vote tomorrow to send it off to the other place.

I am really at the end of what I wanted to say today, so let me also take this opportunity to wish my colleagues, however they celebrate, a very happy holiday season. I look forward to being back here at the end of January to continue the important work we do on behalf of Canadians.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2022 / 5:50 p.m.
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Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, next time I will remember to ask for a lectern.

As I was saying, child sexual abuse has a significant connotation. It is pedophilia. When people talk about pornography in today's society, there is apparently some ambiguity around that word. The meaning and significance of pornography vary considerably from person to person. Some people may consider certain actions pornographic. Some actions, some audiovisual material and some books may be considered pornographic by some and art or just sexuality by others. To some people, it is not that at all.

I think we can live with some degree of ambiguity with respect to pornography. That may be a subject for another time in another place, but child pornography is something else entirely. Child sexual abuse is unacceptable in our society, and I think it is important not to mince words. The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C‑291 because we think it is essential.

The point I want to make about pornography is that it has everything to do with the participants' consent. Child sexual abuse is totally different.

Let us look at the statistics. We are told that, in Quebec, the number of victims under the age of 18 has grown faster than the number of adult victims in recent years. We are talking about an annual increase of 9.5% in cases of child pornography, cases of sexual assault against children. Meanwhile, the number of crimes involving pornography or sexual assault against adults increased by only 4.3%. That is a lot. I am not saying that it is not significant. I simply want to emphasize the fact that what we consider abusive, namely sexual assault against adults, increased by 4.3% and we find that unacceptable. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that, for children, that increase amounted to 9.5% a year.

I think we need to take action. There are all kinds of ways to do that. I am thinking about the possibility of educating children on the topic in schools and the need to make adults more aware of this problem. All sorts of measures can be taken as part of the administration of justice to ensure that children are better protected.

In the federal Parliament we work with the Criminal Code. Yes, we may need to review some provisions of the Criminal Code, impose harsher sentences or find other approaches. One thing is certain, what Bill C-291 is proposing is no minor matter, unlike some bills that simply seek to change the terms that are used without doing anything that has a real impact.

At the same time, I think we have to keep the issue of the healing process in mind. In the current system, an adult who sexually assaults a child could be charged with sexual assault or with using child pornography, without any real understanding of what that means. Often, children will feel responsible for acts that should be blamed on the adult who abused them.

During the victim's healing process, it is important to ensure that the victim does not feel responsible in any way. This is important. It is equally important, for the victim's sake, that we ensure that the abuser is blamed and identified as the perpetrator of the acts.

I think that being accused of having consumed, used or sold child pornography is already a serious matter. Being accused of child sexual abuse is much more serious, much more significant. Young victims will understand that the burden of what took place falls not on them, but on the abuser, the person who is accused of child sexual abuse. I think that will help in the healing process.

In closing, Bill C-291 is not a panacea. I said earlier that perhaps we need to review certain provisions of the Criminal Code in terms of how we deal with the offenders in question, but we also need to ensure the sound administration of justice.

We recently passed a bill that requires training for new judges who will be appointed in the federal system. They will be required to take training on sexual assault law. This is important. We want to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2017 with former judge Braun, who made wholly unacceptable comments about a young girl, saying that she should perhaps feel proud, or something like that, to have been forcibly kissed. It was unacceptable and despicable. The Court of Appeal refused to hear his appeal, as did the Supreme Court. We never want to see anything like that happen again. Training for judges is therefore important.

The bill we passed is important, but there is still more to do. Quebec and the provinces will no doubt follow suit with measures to ensure that kids in our schools and adults who work with young people are very aware of this issue. The federal Parliament has done its job with Bill C‑291, and I congratulate the member who introduced this bill. I think it will be good for everyone.

I will conclude by wishing everyone a happy holiday.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2022 / 5:50 p.m.
See context


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, I was saying that in the case of Bill C-291, words carry weight.

We are debating replacing the term “child pornography”, which is currently used in the Criminal Code, with “child sexual abuse material”. The RCMP proposed the use of the term “child sexual exploitation material”.

Whether we use the term child sexual exploitation or child sexual abuse, I think that we should clarify these actions or describe them for what they really are.

Pornography in our society—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2022 / 5:50 p.m.
See context


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill C‑291 is a bill that could, in other circumstances, be described as practically useless. It only changes some words. Changing the title of a bill and the name of a crime in the Criminal Code may seem rather inconsequential.

In this case, there is absolutely nothing inconsequential about it. In this case, we are talking about holding criminals responsible for their actions.