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

5:20 p.m.

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

Jane Bailey

Let's start today.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

That's right.

Some of the suggestions you've made are great, whether it's Mr. Johnson promoting media and digital literacy or whether it's looking at corporate practices. What we're trying to do with this study is to recommend changes to the federal government that will actually bring about these suggestions that you've made.

I'll leave this one to the experts and ask you an open-ended question. How would you suggest the federal government achieve the wonderful suggestions that you have made?

5:20 p.m.

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

Matthew Johnson

First of all, fund research.

It's not only our research that's worth funding; there is lots of great research going on.

A number of iterations of our research received federal funding, but it's not just original research that we need: we also need to have evaluations of interventions. That's an area where it's very difficult to find funding. We heard earlier about how interventions can do more harm than good, so we need to find out which interventions are working and which ones aren't.

The federal government can change the public discussion on issues like cyberbullying, online safety, and sexting. They can make it more about ethics and less about fear. They can help in promoting resources and providing resources to the provinces for use in the K-12 sector, but there are also any number of sectors that are increasingly becoming connected. There's the health sector, for instance, and the need to provide material for health professionals. We're working more and more with health professionals on these issues. There are a lot of sectors where the federal government can play a role in getting the news out and getting resources to people who need them.

5:20 p.m.

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

Jane Bailey

I'd like to echo that last statement and say that having organizations that deal with violence against women is critical. Studies have shown that having strong feminist grassroots organizations is critical to women's equality. Those organizations, particularly those working in the context of sexual violence and domestic abuse, are confronting all kinds of issues with respect to this particular issue of technologically facilitated violence.

That's a sector that badly needs resources, and it's providing the kind of support to victimized women and children that the eGirls Project participants were talking about. Support survivors and give money and funding to organizations to support survivors.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Are you suggesting giving more money in general to these organizations for support for survivors, or specifically to those dealing with victims of cybersexual violence?

5:25 p.m.

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

Jane Bailey

Even in looking at the criminal case law, research is showing that technologically facilitated violence is creeping in. Technologically facilitated violence by itself is prosecuted relatively infrequently. It's often encased in a situation of relationship abuse or domestic abuse, so the idea that you could parse it out again would not be consistent with the lived reality of how these issues are arising.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Shifting to criminal violence or case law, as the case may be, I'm curious if you have thoughts on how we could be better supporting either law enforcement or the criminal justice process to deal with cases of cyberviolence.

I'm from Nova Scotia. We had quite a public case at the Dalhousie dentistry school, and the public outcry over taking the restorative justice approach was mind-boggling to me. Can you comment on criminalization versus a restorative justice approach, and if there's time, on what extra resources law enforcement could have to prevent victims of not just cyberviolence, but violence as a whole?

5:25 p.m.

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

Jane Bailey

We always have to be cautious of restorative justice approaches in the context of abuses of power, where there is a power imbalance and violence is perpetrated against women because they're women. I understand why that concern was raised.

It's not to say that it doesn't work; it's to say that we always have to be cautious about those approaches and we have to be very confident that the people who are facilitating those remedies know exactly what they're doing and know how to mediate conflict and power imbalance in that context.

In terms of money for law enforcement, a lot of education in schools is being done by police officers, which is great. I understand police officers are looking to play a preventive role instead of playing a reactive role all the time. At some stage, though, the delivery of the message from someone in a uniform who has the capacity to arrest someone and throw them in jail is not necessarily the way to promote the kind of dialogue that we might be looking for.

However, studies like those by Holly Johnson around sexual violence specifically demonstrate that there does need to be some kind of training around issues of sexual violence and cybersexual violence in addition.

I think the addition of a non-consensual distribution provision itself has opened up all kinds of possibilities for law enforcement to lay charges in situations where it either wasn't possible before or it would have been difficult, but I don't think law enforcement would necessarily be the way that I would go.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thanks very much.

Is that my time?

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

We've gone to six minutes.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

No, that's fine.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

We've got a couple of minutes. Ms. Harder, do you have any additional questions for us to finish this off?

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Sure.

Knowing that there's limited time, I'm wondering if you can comment briefly on pornography's impact on young people with regard to their perception of sexting and other forms of cyberviolence that might take place.

5:25 p.m.

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

Matthew Johnson

I'm not aware of any quantitative research specifically relating to pornography and sexting. There's certainly qualitative research that suggests a strong connection.

Quantitatively, it is clear that pornography and, in general, sexualized media have a strong influence on how youth view sex and sexuality. Connections have been drawn between pornography and acceptance of rape myths, but a lot of this is not restricted to pornography. A lot of the evidence has shown that you get the same effects from any kind of sexualized media, and that it is not the sexuality, not the sexual element of pornography, that is the problem, but the stereotyped and, in particular, one might say patriarchal forms of sexuality that are on display in so many forms of sexualized media—and that again is why media literacy is an essential partner to digital literacy in addressing these issues.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

May I ask a point of clarification? When you say “patriarchal”, are you talking about violence against women, basically, demonstrated by men?

5:30 p.m.

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

Matthew Johnson

I didn't mean violence necessarily, but certainly a male-oriented vision of sexuality in which men are subjects and women are objects and porn is all about men's pleasure.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Domination—

5:30 p.m.

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

Matthew Johnson

It's not just porn. There are many examples of this stereotyped sexuality in all kinds of media that youth and adults consume.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

Go ahead, Ms. Bailey, with a quick response. We're wrapping up at 5:30.

5:30 p.m.

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

Jane Bailey

Years ago, Catharine MacKinnon was involved in the porn wars, but no one at the time could have predicted the extent of the infiltration of sexualized violence across culture. Rape culture, I think, is what Professor Shariff is talking about—the equation of sex and violence. It's now so massive that it's not really about an industry anymore, but about a culture.

That's where the work needs to be done. There's all kinds of messaging that's detrimental to women, and that should be enough for us to do something about it, but it's also detrimental to men. These stereotypes limit who people can be, and that's not freedom.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

Thank you both for sharing your knowledge with us today.

To the committee, I want to say that this could be our last meeting. If so, I want to tell you what a pleasure it is to work with you; if not, we can just say all that again on Tuesday.

I also want to commend you on the great job that everyone did on this study, and on the press conference. It was just a delight to be part of it.

My thanks to our witnesses.

With that, we're adjourned.