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.