Before you is a signatory of a petition by over a million Canadians who have reacted to the terrible tragedy that took place at the École Polytechnique de Montréal on December 6, 1989. Fourteen young women students were murdered and ten others wounded by an insane shooter.
Like so many other Canadians, I wondered what I should do to make sure that this kind of massacre never happened again in our society, which we thought of at the time as tolerant and non-violent. When I learned that young Virginie Larivière had started a petition to have broadcasters and the CRTC commit to taking the necessary steps to impose stringent regulations requiring that the monstrous violent films, and the programs where people kill one another instead of helping one another, be shown on television after 9 p.m., I knew that something serious and positive had to be done.
In Quebec City in March 1990, I organized a meeting of Optimist clubs and teachers, and we decided to form a non-profit association to make sure that follow-up action was taken on the petition signed by a million Canadians. Virginie Larivière had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada, who said he was impressed by her initiative and assured her that it would not be ignored.
We all know that acts of violence have risen by 432% since 2001 on Quebec's private networks, and that, at present, over 80% of acts of violence are broadcast before 9 p.m. That is why Association T.R.O.P.-P.E.A.C.E has worked in the schools and with parents for the last 18 years in a public education campaign, to get them to think about what they are absorbing from their screens, whether on television, in video games or on the Internet.
We have formed a partnership devoted to this important and necessary mission: the Optimist clubs of Quebec and eastern Ontario, the Knights of Columbus and the CSQ in Quebec.
Nothing tangible was done by the appropriate authorities, and so we had to make our own efforts to achieve a better society. You know, as do we, that our young people are the most vulnerable victims, and that massacres like what happened at the Polytechnique have been almost everyday occurrences in our neighbour to the south, and even here in Canada.
Association T.R.O.P.-PEACE—T stands for Travail, R for Réflexion, O for Ondes, P for Pacifiques, P for Positive, E for Entertainment, A for Alternatives, C for Children and E for Everywhere—understands the clear negative effects of violence on television, and endorses the brief filed with the United States Congress in June 2000, in which those effects are identified and proved by physicians, pediatricians, psychologists and psychiatrists.
They joined forces to say that violence on television leads to an increase in youth violence. Over a thousand studies have established the cause and effect relationship between exposure to violence on television and aggression in some children.
We are not specialists, but like thousands of parents and educators we have met over the last 18 years, we believe that television violence invades children's imaginations, heightens their fears, interferes with their academic learning and contributes to higher crime rates later. Violence on television contributes to desensitizing children to real violence and the suffering of victims.
Regulating violence on television does nothing to hinder the artistic expression of the creative community. This is not censorship. But we believe that the existing legislation should be amended to regulate the times at which violent programming may be broadcast, to protect our children.
With all due respect to certain producers and broadcasters, we believe what the healthcare professionals have to say about this. Violence on television has an undeniable influence on all children. It does not transform every child into a criminal and it is not the only thing that influences children. But the studies that have been done all lead to the same conclusion: the risks it creates for a growing number of children will some day have consequences for our entire society's quality of life and feelings of safety.
I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for giving me the opportunity to convey the opinion of thousands of Canadian parents and teachers who care about taking non-violence and respect seriously and doing something about them today, and who hope to inspire the best in our young people.
In fact, Optimist International, the umbrella group for hundreds of thousands of members, the real friends of youth, is preparing to give official recognition to our campaign to raise awareness for non-violence and respect, as the YMCA Canada has already done.
We have to remain clear-eyed if we are to be able to make important decisions. The time for this has come. When the choice is between the broadcasters' freedom and children's safety, it is children's safety that should take priority. That is not the case now. Broadcasters refuse to acknowledge that priority. Like thousands of others who think as we do, we believe that the government has the responsibility of regulating the times at which violent programming may be broadcast, to protect our children.
As I conclude my presentation, I add an important observation. Amending the legislation on broadcast times would, seriously and unequivocally, be much more than reasonable.