moved that Bill C-321, an act to amend the criminal code to provide for the forfeiture of property relating to child pornography crimes, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to be here today to lead off the first hour of debate on the second reading of Bill C-321. This is my first private members' bill. For those members who do not have a copy of the bill in front of them, C-321 is an amendment to section 163.1 of the criminal code, which would allow a court that convicts a person of an offence under the provisions relating to child pornography to order the forfeiture of anything by means of which or in relation to which the offence was committed.
Before I get too carried away, there are a number of people I want to acknowledge and thank for their hard work in making the bill happen. This is in no particular order, but I wish to thank Detective Inspector Bob Matthews who heads up Canada's lead agency in the fight against child pornography, the 16 member Ontario Provincial Police Child Pornography Unit, Project P. Detective Inspector Matthews is a widely respected voice in the debate between free speech advocates and law enforcement. He is one of Canada's top law enforcement agents in the field of child pornography investigations.
In early 1999 my office was researching the contentious issue of child pornography and controls on the Internet. During the course of the research my assistant contacted Mr. Matthews and asked him what we could do as parliamentarians to assist police in their fight against the sexual exploitation of children. This bill resulted from that discussion.
Detective Inspector Matthews “Thank you very much, sir, for giving me this opportunity to assist law enforcement agents in their efforts against child pornography.”
The second person I want to thank is Detective Noreen Waters of the Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia. Detective Waters has been a child pornography investigator for eight years and was part of the team that brought in the now infamous John Robin Sharpe. She has been an enthusiastic supporter of our bill.
I also wish to thank Sergeant Randy Brennan of the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police High Tech Unit. Sergeant Brennan has been involved in many successful child pornography investigations and is a valuable source of information.
I also want to recognize Mr. Steve Sullivan, the hardworking president and CEO of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. Steve has been a tireless advocate of victims' rights and has worked with members of parliament to change the justice system to place the rights of victims above criminals.
Before I go on, I also want to thank all of my staff who helped me work on this, especially Klaas Deemter, my executive assistant here in Ottawa, who has spent many hours on this bill. He is a graduate of the University of Lethbridge in my home riding, one of the best universities in Canada. I also want to thank my family and some of my friends who have supported me through all this.
The list goes on. Those people and many other law enforcement officers, victims' advocates, federal parliamentarians, provincial justice ministers and Canadians across the country, particularly in my riding, have contacted me and offered their support. To these concerned Canadians I say “Thank you and keep up that good work. Thank you for fighting to protect children because today more than ever they need our help”.
I want to broaden the theme of my speech today to discuss the challenges of controlling child pornography in today's Internet age. In my speech I hope to expose the depth of the problem facing policy makers and law enforcement. I also wish to share with members and viewers some of the ideas that I have to tackle these challenges.
At the root of these challenges lies the Hydra-like nature of the Internet. In its humble beginnings as a forum for academia and the military, the Internet was boring and difficult to navigate. It contained only dry text, no images or flashy graphics. However, the creation of graphical interface known as the world wide web in 1993 has created a surge in popularity unlike anything seen before. From little more than 100 sites in 1993, the web has grown to the point where some industry experts estimate that over 800 million web pages exist today, with some 160,000 pages being added each and every month.
The Internet has revolutionized communications. Most of us in the House did not even know what e-mail was a few years ago, but today our children and our grandchildren are growing up having never known anything but instantaneous communication as developed through the Internet. Businesses, organizations, government agencies and individuals have seized on this technology, setting up websites and changing how we interact with each other.
However, with increased usage comes increased abuse. In his report “Innocence Exploited: Child Pornography in the Electronic Age”, prepared for the Canadian Police College, Winnipeg Professor Doug Skoog estimates that there are at least one million sexually explicit images of children on the Internet. It is a horrible thing to even think about.
OCABC Detective Waters shared with me recent stats which estimate that 53% of Internet traffic is concerned with sexually explicit material. Calgary Detective Butch Dickens of the vice unit had this to say about child pornography on the Internet in a newspaper article last year “A year ago, we probably only got one phone call a month about it. Now, on average, we get four a day”.
Before the advent of the world wide web, child pornography detectives around the world could say with confidence that they were winning the war against child pornography. The old methods of creation and distribution were tremendously risky. Instead of safely and anonymously zipping images down the fibre optic pipelines of the Internet, carefully arranged meetings, secret mailing lists and postal drops placed pedophiles at extreme risk of arrest.
However, that has all changed. Detective Inspector Bob Matthews states “The Internet has become almost the perfect vehicle for pedophiles to distribute child pornography, the reason being that at the stroke of a key, anyone can send large volumes of information from one country to another without being detected by authorities”.
Child abusers and pedophiles are rapidly creating a no holds barred red light district on the web where they can distribute vast quantities of pornography, often extremely explicit and violent, to the point of murder, and organize with other like-minded individuals. The anonymity offered by the Internet allows child molesters to stalk their victims in their homes, schools and libraries without ever being physically present in any of those places.
The following are a few of the techniques that they employ to exploit children. Chatting online in Internet chat rooms where users can talk to each other by keyboard provides plentiful hunting grounds where child pornographers can stalk their young victims. With minimal effort and nominal expense, they can physically track down their victims regardless of where they live. These chat rooms and the similar Internet relay chat channels, IRC, allow for instantaneous messaging in exchange of contraband files such as images, videos or text.
Another example is sex tourism. With the increase in the use of the Internet for the sex trade and sexual abuse of children, the number of websites providing information to travelling pedophiles has increased dramatically and the sites are extremely explicit in detail. Children in second and third world countries, often regarded as little more than property, are routinely victimized by jet-setting foreigners who then return to their homes to brag about their exploits. Weak local laws often restrict the ability of even honest law enforcement agents to do anything.
Another example is image morphing. With a decent computer and a little skill, child pornographers can turn almost any picture into a pornographic image. An $80 software program can morph the picture of an adult body into a child's, creating the illusion of reality, a horrific thought when taken to its conclusion.
Another example is real time molestation. Streaming video, which shows live video on the Internet, enables child molesters to display their victims in real time to selected members of child pornography rings and clubs, even permitting them to respond to requests from their viewers.
Another example is encryption. Skilled child pornographers will encrypt their messages rendering them unreadable to outsiders. Some pornographers even have access to the codes of the former KGB.
Parents who were once confident that living in a small town insulated them from troubles associated with big cities can no longer be unmindful about the security of their children. With the click of a mouse, children in remote areas can be exposed to the seamy underside of the Net.
In what is becoming an all too often occurrence, cases are being publicized where children under the age of 18 are being threatened or even molested by someone they met online.
In July of this year a 45 year old man from the quiet P.E.I. town of Summerside pleaded guilty to a child pornography case. He had secretly videotaped a 14 year old girl whom he had coerced into doing a striptease, then broadcasted it live on the Internet for viewers in a special interactive online chat room. In same month, on the other side of the country, police arrested a 28 year old Washington man in a line-up for the ferry to leave Vancouver Island. In his van was a 14 year old B.C. girl who he had met online.
Earlier in March of this year, the Ottawa Sun reported that an 18 year old man was arrested and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. An undercover police officer met the man online while the accused was looking for a partner in a plot to kidnap, rape and kill a young child.
While stats are hard to come by, there is also evidence that child pornography, traditionally restricted to bartering, is becoming very profitable for some criminals. A heavily edited 1998 RCMP report obtained by my colleague for Kootenay—Columbia indicates that child pornography from Europe and Asia is flooding into B.C. in the wake of the court ruling suspending the ban on possession. The videos and magazines sold for between $50 and $200 depending on content. An arrest by the U.S. customs service several years ago broke up a child pornography ring where people were making $25,000 a day showing CD-ROMs of child pornography.
While for pedophiles, child molesters and pornographers the Internet is like a dream come true, it has become a nightmare for everyone else. Where once a pedophile may have been able to control his sexual urges toward children, the Internet has created a situation where temptation lurks around every corner on the web. They seek out other pedophiles as a form of peer validation. This psychological validation leads budding child molesters and pornographers to believe that they are not strange or different after all and that it is society, with its laws declaring sex with children and child pornography to be criminal, that is wrong. The downward spiral into child exploitation usually begins with the so-called harmless collection of child pornography, progressing to sexually explicit online conversations with children and eventually seeking child victims online.
Tragically, authorities can only act when the pedophile acts on his urges. Experts report that before he is arrested the average child molesting pedophile abuses 35 children. They will share methods and techniques by which to find children and then reduce their inhibitions and facilitate seduction. Along the way, many compulsively and systematically save mementoes and souvenirs to validate their actions. This is how child pornography is created.
But understanding the problem, as difficult as it may be, is only half the job. Problems require solutions.
Some of those concerned about this problem advocate complete censorship and regulation of anything that appears online. Others lecture that any restrictions on speech are unacceptable and prefer to place the responsibility on the users.
The answer, as it always does, lies somewhere in the middle of these two opposing viewpoints. As policy makers, it is our task to strike that balance, for we alone have the democratic mandate of the Canadian people.
Shortly after her swearing in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Madam Justice Beverley McLachlin predicted that the court would deal extensively with issues of computer crime. The court, she said, would have to find ways to cope with offences that are international in scope, given the breadth of the Internet and computer communications.
Strong, effective legislation is one way that the impact of child pornographers can be reduced. The supreme court holds in its hands the linchpin on which many child pornography cases hinge. It must uphold the ban on possession of child pornography and its decision on the Sharpe case, which is expected later this year. Without possession, police are stripped of their most effective tool and are powerless to stop many cases of abuse.
In 1993, in the wake of the R v Butler decision, parliament passed Bill C-128 which criminalized all aspects of child pornography, including the creation, distribution and importation, as well as simple possession of such material. Although the constitutionality of the provision criminalizing possession is currently under review, section 163.1 is considered among the strongest anti-child pornography legislation in the world, something Canada can be proud of.
Unfortunately, a provision ordering forfeiture was omitted. This omission can be best described as an oversight when one considers that forfeiture exists in 55 different federal statutes and in various places in the criminal code, clearly demonstrating that the justice system is not philosophically opposed to such penalties for criminals.
To correct this omission in the law, I introduced Bill C-321, which would give courts the authority to order forfeiture and would give police an extra weapon in their fight against child pornography.
Currently forfeiture of equipment in the context of a child pornography offence is handled differently across the country. In Ontario, the equipment is often forfeited as part of a bartering between the defence and the prosecution. In British Columbia, the prosecutors rarely ask for equipment to be forfeited.
To see the danger in this patchwork practice, a little insight is required into how charges under section 163.1 of the criminal code are dealt with.
There is hardly a worse crime than the sexual victimization of our children and perpetrating the sexual victimization of children is the most insidious purpose of child pornography.
Because of the strong public condemnation of child pornography, many offenders will do anything to keep their names out of the public domain, often eagerly agreeing to plea bargains resulting in reduced sentences and often with no jail time. This creates a situation where the case law on the section is scant because the courts have had few opportunities to comment on it. More dangerously, these plea bargains often allow the offender to return to the same environment in which he lost control of his pedophiliac urges in the first place. Returning him to this environment with all his equipment intact is a temptation that could prove too strong to resist.
By ordering forfeiture the risk of recidivism can be lowered. Because a child pornography addiction is fueled by psychological problems and not profit, many offenders have limited means. Indeed, their compulsion likely creates financial hardship as the individual spends much of his free time and money in the pursuit of his fantasy. Confiscating several thousand dollars worth of computer equipment and perhaps even a vehicle or something more substantial will create a financial barrier to re-offending. Of course I understand that is only money and does not address the root cause of the problem, but it is one way that we can slow down traffic in this horrific crime.
The technology of our rapidly changing world continues to create legislative challenges for us here in parliament. Expanding the legislation, filling in the holes, adapting to change, as we are trying to do, is necessary because criminals do not stand still and neither should we.
Bill C-321 is only one example of an amendment to section 163.1. Some have suggested that the encryption of child pornography be treated the same way as using a firearm to commit an offence is. Others are concerned that sound files are not restricted under section 163.1. Still others advocate the creation of a national task force, similar to those in the United States, staffed with federal, provincial and local police officers and given an aggressive mandate to stamp out child pornography in Canada. Just last week the federal justice minister met with her colleagues and proposed to criminalize the luring of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation via the Internet. I commend her for that. All of these are measures are things that I and, I am sure Canadians are strongly supportive of.
In the last 10 or 15 minutes we have heard about the dangers of the Internet. Some of the members are no doubt concerned about the safety of their loved ones. I would be glad to share some of the steps we can take to help protect our children from predators.
It was out of my own concern for the safety of Canadian children that I took this initiative. We researched the issue of child pornography on the Internet and tabled this bill. I acknowledge that my bill may not be written in the most precise legal terminology and I am open to any improvement to it. I took on the challenge of tabling a private member's bill as a justice themed bill knowing that the odds are stacked against my success, but I did it because I believe in the spirit of my bill. I could not stand by without doing something to help.
As members return to their families this weekend, relax and enjoy their company. I urge all members to take some time to think of the difference, even if it is just a small difference, that my bill could make in the fight against child pornography. Let us think of the law enforcement agents who have made it their life's work to make our country safe from the perversions of these child molesters. Let us think of the victims of these cold-blooded criminals and help me make a difference.
The government is in the fourth year of its mandate and the next election could come at any time. It seems to be getting closer and closer but nobody is telling us. As the House knows, when an election is called all legislation is dropped from the order paper no matter what stage it is at and no matter how commendable. Bearing this in mind, I urge the government, as part of its commitment to criminalizing the luring of children over the Internet for the purposes of sexual exploitation, to acknowledge that not all good ideas come from its side and adopt the forfeiture provisions contained in my bill. Let us give the children of Canada the maximum protection allowable under the law.