Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for inviting us to appear. I bring regrets from members of my board of directors who were unable to appear with me.
I come representing 25 member societies that work with victimized and criminalized women and girls across the country. My comments will be brief, but I look forward to some of the discussion.
I would suspect that most of us everywhere would prefer that young people and children refrain from sexual activity until the time they are of sufficient age and maturity to engage in caring and consensual relationships. That being said, none of us want to see young people exploited, and none of us want to see young people further victimized. But we think the current Criminal Code health and child welfare provisions adequately cover many of these areas.
From our perspective, the gap tends to be in the bigger issue of the sometime lack of political or administrative will to ensure the existing laws and protections are implemented and the protections in fact exist in the way they're intended. There is also sometimes a reluctance to pursue those who violate those provisions.
We also have concerns about who might be pursued in this context. Let's say you have a young woman who engages in a sexual relationship with an older man and is observed by a doctor. We see situations where the young woman might refuse to provide information. We'd be loath to see those young women end up being cited for things like contempt or other potential charges. Those realities exist now, I would suggest, because of the lack of will to ensure that the current provisions are implemented in a gender-specific and fair way.
We also want to protect children in terms of a variety of other areas, but we don't see, for instance, the same interest in other potential areas where young people are being exploited, whether or not it's child pornography. We know there's an interest in that area, but pornographic advertising techniques aren't challenged in similar ways.
If we're interested in not promoting the sexualization of young people, I think there are many other areas we need to look at, including broader based education campaigns and ways to limit the use of young people who are increasingly being sexualized at very young ages.
We also do not support a differential age in terms of anal intercourse. If you decide to in fact proceed with this bill, in the alternative, we're interested in having some discussions about the issue of rebuttable presumption.
That's our submission. Thank you.