Evidence of meeting #20 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was online.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Shaheen Shariff  Associate Professor, Faculty of Education and Associate Member, Law Faculty, McGill University, As an Individual
Lara Karaian  Associate Professor, Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Carleton University, As an Individual
Jane Bailey  Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
Matthew Johnson  Director of Education, MediaSmarts

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

You mentioned that only about 10% of youth surveyed have actually sexted.

5:05 p.m.

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

Matthew Johnson

It's slightly lower. It's roughly 8%. That's 8% of those students who had access to a cellphone in grades 7 through 11.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Okay. I guess what I'm wondering—and my question could go to both of you—is if you can give me a really brief background with regard to the methodology used for that study.

5:05 p.m.

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

Matthew Johnson

You can actually find the methodology in our research, which is available online. All of our research and 95% of our teacher, parent, and youth resources are available for free on our website online, so I won't go into it in too much detail.

Essentially it was conducted in classrooms. It was a survey. For consistency, we go as much as possible back to the same schools each time we do an iteration of this survey. We took every step possible to guarantee anonymity to the students, so they wouldn't have to worry about being associated with the data. Beyond that, it was a simple questionnaire.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Good.

Mostly the anonymity was what I wanted to know about and have on the record, so that's very helpful. Thank you.

With regard to parent involvement, the previous panel talked a lot about perhaps needing to integrate a course into our education system. I can certainly see some value to that. However, I'm personally of the opinion that education starts in the home.

We know that access to pornography is starting at a younger age. Health Canada tells us that pornography is directly related to health effects in young people and in adults as well, so we know there are some negative repercussions there.

Nevertheless, with regard to education beginning in the home, I'm wondering if you guys can comment on the role parents might have with regard to mitigating the risk of sexual exploitation or violence with regard to cyberspace, both from the side of the person who is the perpetrator, in this case, and from the side of the individual who is sharing their image. Is there a role for parents to play?

5:10 p.m.

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

Matthew Johnson

I would simply say yes.

Obviously we do provide a lot of resources for parents. Parents and teachers are our two main audiences, as well as youth through them.

We think it's really important to provide parents with accurate information, which is why the research is so important. It's to provide parents with practical tools, which is one of the reasons we did our research specifically on the effect of household rules, for instance; and to make sure parents don't approach the issue with fear.

We did a focus group with parents. In our research with parents, we found that they felt tremendous—and often misplaced—fear. They were worried about things that were genuinely low-risk. Also, this fear was driving them away from discussing the issues with their youth, which we know is the most effective approach, and towards conducting surveillance of youth, which we know is at best neutral and has at times negative effects on youth safety and youth agency.

It's really important to encourage parents to talk to their kids, to take a positive approach, to be aware of the legitimate and genuine risks as well as to be involved in setting limits, transmitting their values to their kids, and providing them with practical tools for what to do when things go wrong.

5:10 p.m.

Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Jane Bailey

I think there are two things. We have to teach girls that it's okay to want to have sex and to be sexual, because it is. Also, we have to teach boys that there needs to be respect for the sexual autonomy of others.

Maybe there are three things. The third thing is that we have to address gender stereotyping. We have to deconstruct the myth that to be a man, you have to dominate a woman and that violence is sex. We have to give those tools to our kids and we have to give them those freedoms. If we did that, non-consensual distribution would be completely robbed of its fire, because it would be like, “Go ahead and post it. I don't care. Who cares? Nobody cares. Girls get naked sometimes. Big deal.”

That's the future I'm looking for, and I think parents can play an active role in achieving it. However, I think leaving it to parents is not enough. I do think formal education, starting in junior kindergarten, is where we need to go.

5:10 p.m.

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

Matthew Johnson

I should point out that our digital literacy resources as well as our media literacy resources do go from kindergarten to grade 12. What Professor Bailey said shows why media literacy is an essential element.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

You have 20 seconds.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

I have a quick follow-up.

I totally appreciate what you guys are saying. Thank you very much.

How do we push information out to parents? What's our vehicle?

5:10 p.m.

Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Jane Bailey

This is one of the questions for the eQuality Project. One way we are doing that is to have a partnership, and our partnership includes an organization whose community of service is family. It's the Vanier Institute for the Family.

This is a partnership that's trying to forge links between amazing organizations like MediaSmarts, which knows better than anybody how to put together digital and ethical literacy material for kids, and then help them integrate with the Vanier Institute for the Family, which knows the kinds of stuff families need and the sorts of things families are looking for to create communities and use expertise—

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

That was a long 15 seconds.

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

I didn't want to cut you off.

Ms. Benson is next.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Thank you both for being here.

I want to reiterate comments from other committee members here. In particular, I appreciate the view you and other speakers have brought, giving us a perspective from young people. I see just by some of our questions that it's an adult view of a world for children. They have a different perspective and have grown up—some of us are younger than others here—in a different place, so I really appreciate that both of you have brought that view, those voices of kids, from the work you've done together.

We heard from the other speaker as well that when we start to treat children as objects and start using words like “cyber” and create something new, in fact we're just confusing things in a way.

I'd like both of you to comment on a more general piece.

The other speakers spoke as well about the importance of using a lens that looks at the intersection of sexism, classism, and racism within this particular subject. It's important to have that lens, but I'm wondering how this fits into the overall narrative when we look at gender-based violence. Do you feel it's detracting or adding when we use terms like “cyberviolence” and “date culture”? From my point of view, it seems to kind of get us off track. It's almost as though it puts in barriers to what the real issue is. My concern is that we'll start to implement interventions and we'll have missed the point.

I'd like your general comments, Jane and Matthew.

5:15 p.m.

Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Jane Bailey

That's always my worry and that's why I talked about cyberbullying first. You could say that about a lot of words and phrases that we use, but I don't think of intersectionality in that category at all.

Finding solutions that are workable for people depends on knowing what their life situation is. That life situation can be affected by multiple imposed or chosen identity markers. I don't think that approach in particular gets us off track. I think that sort of takes us exactly where we want to go.

At the core of this stuff to me is equality and inequality. It all comes back to that. Whether it's technologically facilitated violence against women or not, equality is the underlying theme.

5:15 p.m.

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

Matthew Johnson

I think it's always dangerous or risky to get hung up on buzzwords, but I would have to echo what Professor Bailey said. We do know. We know from a great deal of research that some youth are more at risk of being victims of cyberviolence of various kinds and also suffer more harm. In most cases, these are youth who are marginalized or disadvantaged in various ways—youth with disabilities, gay or GLBTQ or questioning youth, low-income youth, aboriginal youth.

We do have to recognize this. That is again why a comprehensive, holistic approach is important and why digital literacy has to be connected to media literacy. Just as we need to question our ideas of masculinity, which frequently pressure boys to share sex they receive or encourage them to ask for sex or permit them to feel that it's okay, we have to question our ideas of femininity and we have to question all of our ideas, which in many cases are either inspired by or reflected in the media representations that we consume.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

You have about 45 seconds.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

I will ask each of you to leave us with one or two comments about what you feel is the most important thing we should take away from what you've brought to our conversation today. It's an easy question to ask, but....

5:20 p.m.

Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Jane Bailey

Here's the thing. Apart from discrimination, discrimination, discrimination, equality, I really think that we have treated corporate enterprises in the online environment with a set of kid gloves and allowed them to make a lot of decisions very privately that have a huge impact on our public order and that are having a huge impact on our kids. Online behavioural targeting is one of those.

To try to understand how those private decisions are shaping the environment that kids are socializing in I think is critical. I think there is certainly a role for investigation and research, and potentially a role for regulation. That came from the girls who we talked to. They were aware of the way that they were being targeted and the way their communications were being pushed.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

I'm going to have to end that there.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Can Matthew just say one too?

5:20 p.m.

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

Matthew Johnson

It shows we need comprehensive digital literacy education, with all of the elements that I've described earlier, in every classroom for every student from kindergarten through grade 12, and ideally beyond.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

I'm glad I let you have that chance.

Mr. Fraser is next.

June 16th, 2016 / 5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thanks very much to both of you for being here, and to our previous witnesses as well.

This has been a learning experience for me, and I'm sure for many others in the room as well. You've made some excellent points.

I think, Ms. Bailey, you commented earlier in your remarks that the distinction between the cyberworld and the real world is becoming more and more meaningless because things are felt in the world that we live in largely as a result of social attitudes. I agree that smashing the patriarchy is not too ambitious a goal. I think we can pursue that.