Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act

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

Status

Third reading (Senate), as of Dec. 1, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill S-210.

Summary

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

This enactment makes it an offence for organizations 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.

Elsewhere

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.

Age Verification SoftwarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 24th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a number of petitions this morning.

The first petition comes from Canadians across the country who are concerned about the ease of access to sexually explicit material for young persons.

The petitioners are concerned about the significant proportion of sexually explicit material available online. It is extremely degrading and not suitable for young people. They are very concerned that porn companies are not doing anything to ensure that young people are not getting access to this material. They also note that Parliament recognized the harm of the increase to the accessibility to sexually explicit material online for young persons in a report back in 2017. They say that online age verification technology is increasingly getting sophisticated and less intrusive and that it can be done without invading privacy.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada and this Parliament to adopt Bill S-210 with due haste.

Age Verification SoftwarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 22nd, 2022 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, the last petition I am presenting this morning is from Canadians across Canada who would like to draw the attention of the House to the following.

Sexually explicit material, including demeaning material and material depicting sexual violence, can be easily accessed on the Internet by young people. The petitioners are concerned that a significant proportion of sexually explicit material accessed online is made available for a commercial purpose and is not protected by any effective age verification method. They are concerned that the consumption of this material is associated with a wide range of harms, including the development of addiction, the reinforcement of gender stereotypes and the development of attitudes favourable to harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, particularly against women.

The petitioners are calling on the government to recognize the harmful effects of the increased accessibility of sexually explicit materials for young persons. They want this to be recognized as an important health and public safety concern. They also want the government to ensure that meaningful age verification technology is being used to prevent young people from gaining access to sexually explicit material. They want anybody making sexually explicit material available for a commercial purpose to have a responsibility to ensure that young people are not gaining access.

Therefore, the people who have signed this petition are calling on the House of Commons to adopt Bill S-210, the protecting young persons from exposure to pornography act, which I note is on its way here from the Senate as we speak.

Age Verification SoftwarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 26th, 2022 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition is from folks from across Canada who are concerned about the ease of access for young people to sexually explicit material. There is significant concern that sexually explicit material is being targeted toward children, giving porn companies full access to children.

The petitioners are calling on the government to ensure that sexually explicit material for commercial purposes be mandated to have effective age verification methods. They say that the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child states that children should be free from sexual harassment, violence and pornography use as well. They also note that prolonged pornography use leads to an increase in sexual harassment and sexual violence, particularly against young women.

The petitioners are calling for an online verification requirement. This is a recommendation made by stakeholders during a 2017 study before the Standing Committee on Health. They are calling for the Government of Canada to quickly adopt Bill S-210, the protecting young persons from exposure to pornography act.

Age Verification SoftwarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 26th, 2022 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

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

October 19th, 2022 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, my second petition is from people across this country who are calling on the government to pass Bill S-210. The petitioners are concerned about how easy it is for young people to gain access to sexually explicit material online, including violent and degrading sexually explicit material. They comment on how this is an important public health and public safety concern. They note that a significant portion of commercially accessible material has no age verification software. Moreover, age verification can be done without breaching privacy rights.

The petitioners note the many serious harms associated with sexually explicit material, including the development of addictions and the development of attitudes favourable to sexual violence and the harassment of women. Finally, these petitioners call on the House of Commons to pass this legislation to protect young minds.

Online PornographyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 4th, 2022 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to present a number of petitions today.

In the first petition, petitioners are concerned about how easy it is for young people to access sexually explicit material online, including violent and degrading explicit material. They note that this is a public health and public safety concern.

The petitioners note that a significant portion of commercially accessed sexually explicit material have no age verification software. Moreover, that age verification software could ascertain the age of users without breaching their privacy rights. They note many serious harms associated with sexually explicit material, including the development of addiction and the development of attitudes favourable to sexual violence and harassment of women.

As such, the petitioners call on the House of Commons to quickly pass Bill S-210, the protection of young persons from exposure to pornography act.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 27th, 2022 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-252, which focuses on the prohibition of food and beverage marketing directed at children.

This bill is mostly a preamble, and there is some strong language in the preamble about protecting kids from manipulative media and about their vulnerability to marketing and media. We should be concerned about marketing that is targeting kids with things that are beyond their age or could be harmful to them.

What about sexually explicit materials and their impact on kids? Numerous studies show the harmful impact that exposure to pornography and hypersexualized media can have on kids, including mental health issues such as depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, increased likelihood of accepting sexual violence or rape myths and an increased risk of girls being sexually harassed and boys committing sexual harassment. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection highlights that exposure to pornography by children may shape a child’s expectations in relationships, blur boundaries and increase a child’s risk of victimization, increase a child’s health risks through, for example, sexually transmitted infections or sexual exploitation, and increase a child’s risk of problematic sexual behaviour against other children in an effort to experiment.

We know that children’s exposure to sexually explicit content, particularly that which is violent and degrading, causes serious and significant harm to mental and emotional health. We know that much of the pornographic content published and hosted on MindGeek websites is sexist, racist or degrading to particular groups. We also know that some of the content involves actual violence or coercion, or is shared without consent.

We need to be focused on the marketing that targets children, and one of the most pressing areas is companies that publish sexually explicit material. If we want to protect “vulnerable children from the manipulative influence of marketing”, particularly harmful content online, we should be starting with predatory porn companies. Porn companies should not have unlimited access to kids online but they do, and they have no requirement to make sure those accessing their sites are actually over the age of 18.

For example, MindGeek is a Montreal-based company not too far from the riding of the sponsor of this bill. MindGeek employs around 1,600 people. It is based in Montreal and the online platforms it owns include Pornhub, RedTube, YouPorn and Brazzers. According to MindGeek's own data, its websites received approximately 4.5 billion visits each month in 2020, equivalent to the monthly visitors of Facebook. Many of those visitors were kids.

That is why last spring, when Bill C-11 was going through the Canadian heritage committee, I proposed amendments to help protect kids from exposure to sexually explicit content. Specifically, my amendment would have added to the policy objective of the Broadcasting Act that it “seek to protect the health and well-being of children by preventing the broadcasting to children of programs that include sexually explicit content”. It was supported by multiple child advocacy organizations and those fighting online exploitation in briefs submitted to the heritage committee.

Defend Dignity, a great organization, pointed out that these amendments are supported by general comment 25, which was recently adopted by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Canada is a signatory to it. The Convention on the Rights of the Child's general comment notes:

States parties should take all appropriate measures to protect children from risks to their right to life, survival and development. Risks relating to content, contact, conduct and contract encompass, among other things, violent and sexual content, cyberaggression and harassment, gambling, exploitation and abuse, including sexual exploitation and abuse, and the promotion of or incitement to suicide or life-threatening activities, including by criminals or armed groups designated as terrorist or violent extremist.

To be clear, they urge signatories like Canada to “take all appropriate measures to protect children from risks...relating to...violent and sexual content”. That is why Defend Dignity said, “Protecting children from the harms of sexually explicit material and society from the dangerous impact of violent sexually explicit material must be a priority.”

Timea’s Cause, another great organization, and OneChild, with a combined 32 years of experience in combatting the sexual exploitation of children, wrote to the heritage committee and said:

Today, Canadian children's access to sexually explicit content and the broadcasting of sexual violence has gone far beyond the realm of television and radio. This content is broadcasted online through digital advertising to pornography. The Internet has unleashed a tsunami of content that is objectifying, violent, and misogynistic in nature, and those viewing this harmful content are getting younger and younger....

This content greatly informs our cultural norms, values, and ideologies. In the case of children, who are still navigating the world and are in the process of developing their sense of self and esteem and learning how they should treat others and how others should treat them-this kind of material is detrimental to their development. It warps their understanding of sex, consent, boundaries, healthy relationships, and gender roles. Moreover, viewing this kind of online content has frightening links to rape, “sextortion”, deviant and illegal types of pornography such as online child abuse material, domestic violence, patronizing prostitution, and even involvement in sex trafficking.

At the heritage committee, when it came to a vote on my amendment, it had NDP support, but the Liberal Party voted it down. It was puzzling that, for the Liberals, who want to control the posts of regular Canadians and now target food advertisers, porn companies get a free pass when it comes to our kids.

I will say it again: Predatory companies such as MindGeek should not have unlimited access to our kids online. This is not new. Over two and a half years ago, we wrote to the Prime Minister asking him for help to stop this. We got no reply. Then, two years ago, MPs and senators from across party lines wrote the justice minister, and this was followed by a New York Times exposé asking, “Why does Canada allow this company to profit off videos of exploitation and assault?”

We then had an ethics committee study last year, a committee that the sponsor of the bill sat on, with 14 recommendations supported by all parties, and still there was no attempt by the government to provide oversight to a part of the Internet that has caused so much pain and suffering to women, youth and vulnerable individuals.

Now, there is a courageous, independent senator who is taking on predatory porn companies like MindGeek with the goal of keeping kids safe online. She has introduced Bill S-210, the protecting young persons from exposure to pornography act, in the Senate, which would require all that publish sexually explicit material to verify the age of the consumer.

The preamble of Bill S-210 states:

Whereas the consumption of sexually explicit material by young persons is associated with a range of serious harms, including the development of pornography addiction, the reinforcement of gender stereotypes and the development of attitudes favourable to harassment and violence — including sexual harassment and sexual violence — particularly against women;

Whereas Parliament recognizes that the harmful effects of the increasing accessibility of sexually explicit material online for young persons are an important public health and public safety concern;

The preamble then continues:

And whereas any organization making sexually explicit material available on the Internet for commercial purposes has a responsibility to ensure that it is not accessed by young persons;

This bill is at committee at the moment in the Senate, and it is hopefully headed to the House soon. When it gets here, I hope it will have strong support among all the parties.

When it comes to Bill C-252, I support the intentions and the aims of the bill, and I commend the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for her efforts. As parents, we want our children to be healthy and protect them from marketing that could be harmful.

The striking difference between Bill S-210 and Bill C-252 is that the former has a clear framework put in place to do what it aims to do, and I do not see that in Bill C-252, which is not written in a way that could actually accomplish what it claims to do. We know that Quebec passed similar legislation in 1980 to ban advertising aimed at kids under 13, and it has largely been ineffective in lowering child obesity rates.

I also believe that parents should be able to make informed food choices for their families and have affordable access to nutritious foods, the latter of which has become incredibly difficult due to the inflation crisis caused by the Liberal government.

To be successful on this, we need co-operation across all sectors, and I look forward to working with members of the House and across the economy to ensure that we have parents and corporations working together to encourage healthy living.

Age Verification SoftwarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 26th, 2022 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition I have today comes from petitioners across the country who are concerned about how young people can easily access explicit material online, including violently explicit and degrading material. The petitioners comment on how this access is an important public health and safety concern. They note that a significant portion of commercially accessed sexually explicit material has no age verification software. Moreover, age verification software can ascertain the age of users without breaching their privacy rights. The petitioners note the many serious harms associated with sexually explicit material, including the development of addictions and attitudes favourable to sexual violence and the harassment of women. As such, they are calling on the House of Commons to pass Bill S-210, the protecting young persons from exposure to pornography act.

Right to Vote at 16 ActPrivate Members' Business

September 23rd, 2022 / 1:30 p.m.
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Toronto—Danforth Ontario

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to be able to stand today and speak in favour of Bill S-210, which would lower the voting age to 16. I think it is a really important thing for us to be talking about today and giving support.

I thought that a good place to start would be to hand over the mike to some members of my youth council. I have a youth council. They are young people in the community who give me advice and talk with me about the issues that are important to them in the community. I asked them how they felt about this issue of reducing the voting age. We had a great discussion about it. I thought we should hear from them because we are talking about their voting rights.

Jessica said, “Adolescents at the age of 16 are at the point in their lives where they are most engaged in their communities as they are starting to get jobs, a driver's licence, and in general getting involved in society. Getting adolescents involved with voting can lead to more long-lasting participation in democratic activities throughout their life.”

Another member in my youth council, Safik, talked about it also in favour. He said, “Age isn't always a factor when you have mature teens and adults. On the flip, you have immature teens and adults who get to vote. We also have to find a way to have teens' voices respected by adults so that they can take their opinions seriously before voting. ”

Finally, the other member of my youth council who I would like to give a voice is Jona, who said, “Giving youth the vote strengthens our democracy—youth may not have the same experiences or emotional maturity as adults, but that's why our vote would be beneficial. Giving the youth a vote will offer an additional perspective, and will make voting results more well rounded. Youth have very different eyes when looking at the world, and so giving the older youth the vote will make our system a better democracy. Because after all, the point of a democracy is that everyone gets a say, but it's not everyone if we are excluding an entire demographic.”

I would like to thank the members of my youth council, because I think it was really important that they took the time to help me get ready for this debate and to share their thoughts. I believe very much, whenever I hear from them, that they have some very strong and great ideas. It would be so wonderful to have them engaged in the voting process.

I wanted to give some facts because this is not the first time that we have talked about expanding the voting age or who may vote. In fact, over time it has evolved in Canada. It has not been this static thing that the people who can vote today were the people who could vote at Confederation. Just to put it in context, this is not the first time that this kind of thing has happened. For example, in 1867, upon Confederation, only property-owning men, 20 years or older, could vote. I would say that it was not even all of the men who were eligible to vote at that point. The vote was only extended to some women in 1918. For a whole portion of our history, I would not have been able to vote, just to put that in context as we talk about the voting age and voting in general. The voting age was revised in 1970 as well.

Therefore, it is not without precedent to talk about this. As our democracy evolves, as we have different conversations that evolve, there are different measures to consider about what we can do to make sure that people are engaged and that we are hearing the voices we need to hear when making decisions as to who should be here in this place.

I think we are also, perhaps, at a turning point where it is even more important than ever to think about that. How do we engage more people in wanting to vote? There has been a downward trend in people actually showing up to vote. Certainly, in my home province of Ontario in the last election, we saw a drastic reduction in the number of people who showed up to vote.

How can we make sure that people are engaged from an early time and continue to be throughout their lives? I think in a place like my home community, a lot of the times the polling stations are actually in schools, the same place that these young people who are 16 years old are learning about civics. We walk right by them to go into their school gyms and libraries to vote. They might be having a class just down the hall about civics, but there is a bit of a disconnect. Sometimes what I hear from some young people who are just about to vote is that they actually do not know enough about the process. It is new. That might be something that holds some people back.

If it was at 16, when many of them are in school and the polling stations might be close by, that might engage a whole bunch more people to say that it is something they have seen and can relate to and as they are talking about these issues right now in class they are going to walk across and vote.

The other part I would say is that we see today, with climate strikes across our country, young people are at the centre and the lead of many of the movements we have in our country. They have strong ideas about the future, and the future is what we are going to be handing to them. When we talk about the things we are doing here in this place now, that relates to their future as well, so it is important to make sure they have the opportunity to get engaged and to be the leaders they are, and that translates into their being able to vote.

One thing I have found interesting is that political parties often reduce the age from 18 for people to be able to get involved in the party and become members. There is a bit of a distinction between the people who might be able to vote to nominate the person who will be the candidate in an election for a certain party and those who might actually be able to vote in the election itself. There is a bit of a funny mix there. As political parties, we often recognize that people under the age of 18 have something to contribute to the choices we make.

I know I do not have much more time, so I want to focus on mentioning that we are talking about the voting age today, which I think is very important, but we have also taken actions as a government over the past years to try to assist young people to be able to vote more. For example, the Government of Canada established the register of future electors in 2019 so that young Canadians can pre-register to vote, to remove one of the barriers to people who are going to be voting for the first time.

There are definitely a lot of community-led groups that work to try to engage more people to understand the democratic process, how to vote and those pieces. We have been supporting youth-led projects that promote civic engagement in youth services through programs like Canadian Heritage's youth take charge program.

As a government, we have recognized the importance of engaging young people and making sure they understand how the voting process works. Why not take that next step and recognize that they have so much to contribute and reduce the voting age to 16?

On that note, I want to say I am supportive of this bill. I think it is a wonderful thing that we are considering doing it. I consider it an evolution in the way we address voting in our country. I am so proud that so many young people have taken a moment to become engaged and have their voices heard, like the young people on my youth council, and to show that they are ready. They are ready to vote and to take hold of the reins of their future.

Age Verification SoftwarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 9th, 2022 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition I am presenting today is from Canadians across the country who are concerned about the impact of sexually explicit material, including demeaning and violent material on the Internet. These folks are worried about the consumption of sexually explicit material by young persons and a range of harms, including the development of gender stereotypes and the development of harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence particularly against women.

The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to enact meaningful age verification. Also, a recommendation was brought forward by the health committee in 2017, so they call for the House to adopt Bill S-210, the protecting young persons from exposure to pornography act.