House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pornography.


PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

September 22nd, 2000 / 12:25 p.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario


John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to respond to a question of privilege filed by the member for Wentworth—Burlington, if you are prepared to entertain the government's response.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Yes, I am. I will set the stage for you. This was a point of privilege which was brought up before parliament adjourned for the summer. This is a response to that time. The hon. parliamentary secretary.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, you may recall on June 15, 2000, the hon. member for Wentworth—Burlington raised a point of privilege concerning the defeat of his private member's bill, Bill C-206, an act to amend the Access to Information Act at second reading.

The question of privilege alleges that the Department of Justice may have wilfully deceived MPs by means of a document marked exhibit A, which MPs received on their desks in the House prior to the June 6 vote on Bill C-206. The documents stated that “the privacy commissioner had expressed concerns that, under Bill C-206, 30 year old records would be made accessible resulting in the potential release of personal information held by the government”. It is alleged that the document falsely attributed these concerns to the privacy commissioner.

It is also claimed that the privacy commissioner's concerns were misrepresented in a talking points document dated May 26 to cabinet ministers, which was marked exhibit B. This document, which was provided to cabinet ministers for discussion purposes, stated that the privacy commissioner considered Bill C-206 to be “a serious threat to the privacy of Canadians”.

I will demonstrate that exhibits A and B are a fair representation of the privacy commissioner's concerns regarding Bill C-206.

According to the hon. member for Wentworth—Burlington “The problem is the privacy commissioner was not in official communication with the Department of Justice on Bill C-206 until 10 days after the May 26 memo outlining his position and never described his concerns as a serious threat, nor ever provided the example cited in the document above”. In fact, those concerns were exposed and expressed in different forums long before May 26.

There appears to be some misunderstanding of the facts. From October 1999 to June 2000, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner consistently indicated that Bill C-206 raised privacy concerns. Let me illustrate.

In October 1999 the executive director of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner called a meeting with Department of Justice officials. Officials from the privacy commissioner's office indicated that they had two major problems with the changes proposed in Bill C-206.

First, they were concerned that the changes proposed in clause 14 of Bill C-206 would “eviscerate” the Privacy Act by imposing a mandatory obligation to disclose personal information. The example used was that data collected by Revenue Canada is shared with HRDC under section 8 of the Privacy Act. Changing the discretionary “may” disclose to “shall” disclose would result in all the income tax returns of Canadians for the last 10 years being accessible.

Second, they were concerned that the proposed 30-year rule, which would release virtually all documents after 30 years, would have privacy implications. The confidential information collected by the government continues to be sensitive even after 30 years.

Justice officials took the concerns of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner very seriously.

On May 16, 2000 the privacy commissioner tabled his annual report in which he referred to, at page 75, the bill by the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, Bill C-264, which was the predecessor to Bill C-206. He indicated the bill could have “negative privacy impact” and that the proposed disclosure of information older than 30 years would, in his view, “completely disregard the protections of the Privacy Act”. Furthermore, he expressed concern over the removal of the critical discretion that the Privacy Act gives heads of federal institutions to determine whether to disclose individuals' personal information to third parties.

Based on these statements, the document marked exhibit B was prepared for cabinet ministers. It concluded that “The privacy commissioner believes Bill C-206 is a serious threat to the privacy of Canadians”. This statement is clearly a fair representation of the views expressed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner during the October meeting and in the privacy commissioner's annual report of May 16, 1999.

Furthermore, in a letter to the Minister of Justice dated June 5, 2000, the privacy commissioner confirmed what his office had previously flagged. The privacy commissioner stated at line 2 in the second paragraph of the letter “while I support the ultimate goal of a more transparent and accountable government, I fear the bill will have, perhaps unintentionally, a detrimental effect on the Privacy Act”.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the Privacy Act protects the private information of Canadians held by government institutions. Therefore, anything that would have a detrimental effect on the Privacy Act would be a threat to the privacy of Canadians.

There was no deception on the part of the Department of Justice. The privacy commissioner's office expressed serious concerns about clause 14 and the 30 year rule in October 1999. The commissioner's annual report of May 16, 2000 reaffirmed in a more general manner these concerns.

On June 5, 2000 the privacy commissioner officially indicated that the same clauses would have a detrimental effect on the Privacy Act. From October 1999 to June 2000 the message to the Department of Justice from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner was the same: Bill C-206 represented a serious threat to the privacy of individuals. The examples used indicate the nature of that threat.

I would like to remind the House that at the beginning of the previous parliament the government indicated that private members' business would be subject to free votes. Each member must assess the long term implications of any private member's bill or motion and vote accordingly.

The Minister of Justice simply and correctly expressed a legitimate concern about Bill C-206 and shared the information she had with her colleagues.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I want to review the transcript of what has transpired not only today, but want to put in juxtaposition what happened last June. I have a request from another member who wants to speak to this particular point of privilege. I will of course reserve judgment until I hear from the member if indeed he wants to intervene.

At this point I will take both the submission of the member for Hamilton Mountain and your own submission. I will hear from at least one other member and then I will come back to the House with my decision.

I also want the House to be apprised that I received a message earlier from the Deputy Prime Minister asking to rise on a point of order but we had the fire alarm. He is not here, but I will hear whatever point he wants to bring up when the House convenes on Monday or after question period. I want that to be on the record.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-41, an act to amend the statute law in relation to veterans' benefits, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Civilian War-Related Benefits ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to address Bill C-41, an act to amend the statute law in relation to veterans' benefits.

I am going to provide the House with some background information. This bill proposes to provide benefits for civilian groups that served Canada overseas, such as the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit, the Corps of Canadian Firefighters and other organizations.

The bill proposes to allow Canadian forces members to receive disability benefits while still serving their country, thereby ensuring equality with those whose disabilities arose in special duty area service and reserve force service.

I am pleased to state at the outset that there may be some issues we wish to pursue in committee. Some of these have been mentioned already by previous speakers, for example, section 46 concerning the RCMP and also the concern of the legions with respect to retroactivity. While we may want to pursue these in committee, the New Democratic Party at this point stands in support of the bill.

I do have some skepticism. My skepticism does not arise from the words in the legislation, but from the government's intent on following through with its commitment to Canada's veterans.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, almost half of the claims received from merchant mariners are still waiting to be processed. These Canadians risked life and limb during the war to deliver fuel, food, goods and people, and were under attack from German submarines, facing casualty and, all too often, death. Every month more of these brave members of our communities succumb to illness and old age.

It has been estimated that merchant mariners are dying at the rate of about 12 per month. The Department of Veterans Affairs reportedly has 45 people working on these claims. Clearly, staffing levels should be increased to meet the demand created by merchant mariners' claims. The decision not to hire more staff likely translates into a decision to let more merchant mariners die without seeing their claims processed and justice done.

Furthermore, if the government wishes Bill C-41 to be taken seriously by the people who would be affected by the bill, it should state here now that it is committed to ensuring that all merchant mariners entitled to compensation will receive their full benefits and that the government will not turn its back on these merchant mariners after the first payments have been made.

The legislation sets out to extend veterans benefits to a number of civilian groups with overseas service and would allow all serving members of the Canadian armed forces who suffer a service related disability to receive disability pensions while serving.

As the New Democratic Party representative on the all party Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, I am pleased to see that the government is responding to issues raised by our committee in a positive way. Allowing the serving members of the forces who qualify for disability pensions to receive these disability pensions while serving does indeed begin to address issues relating to the quality of life of Canadian forces members.

While I am pleased to see that the government is taking some steps toward addressing the issues raised by the all party standing committee, I strongly suggest that the government could be doing much more to address broader issues relating to working and living conditions for our troops.

Military personnel who live on bases in single quarters or in permanent married quarters must contend with old and deteriorating accommodations that are among the worst to be found in this country. The quarters in some regions were called dilapidated by the committee, and that was being very generous. From leaky roofs to cramped, old, deteriorating spaces, Canada's forces personnel deserve much better from the country they so admirably served, and in particular from the Liberal government that is responsible for these decisions.

Canadian forces accommodation policy cites the need for well maintained quarters, respecting dignity, privacy, safety and security. The Liberal government's policy is “tough luck, you lose”.

The Liberal government had cash on hand to spend $15 million building a brand new armoury in Shawinigan which, by a great coincidence, happens to be in the Prime Minister's own riding.

As I have said, the legislation sets out to ensure serving forces personnel may receive disability pensions while still serving. In other words, troops serving Canadians through assisting with crises, like the great ice storm of 1998, fighting floods on the Red River or working as peacekeepers in Bosnia, would be able to collect a veterans affairs disability pension while continuing to serve the country. This will ensure equity with members whose disabilities arose in special duty areas and reserve force service.

We support the legislation as it would extend veterans benefits to certain civilian groups who served overseas in close support of the war effort. This would include groups such as the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, Newfoundland Overseas Foresters, Canadian firefighters, pilots who ferried across the Atlantic and other groups who assisted the military overseas. This move will provide these individuals with greater access to Veterans Affairs Canada income support, disability pensions and additional health care benefits, including the veterans independence program.

The overseas crew of the Ferry Command assisted the war effort by ferrying military aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean from North America. During the second world war, some 340 Canadian and Newfoundland civilian pilots and aircrew were under contract to deliver aircraft from North America to Britain and elsewhere. The members of the Ferry Command, who today number approximately 100 people, have never had access to veterans programs.

The Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit assisted the war effort by cutting timber in Scotland, which was then predominantly used in British coal mining operations. Britain quickly realized the increased production of coal was a strategic imperative to fuel the war effort and thus the immediate need for experienced loggers to produce timber for mining was paramount.

Over the course of the war some 3,680 Newfoundlanders served in the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit although many later transferred to the British armed forces or served with the British Home Guard. There are about 1,000 members alive today.

When Canada was negotiating the terms of union several years after the war it was agreed that Newfoundland armed forces members would be eligible for veterans benefits from Canada but members of the forestry unit were not included in that agreement.

During the second world war the Canadian Corps of Firefighters served in the United Kingdom. It served the war effort by fighting fires in Britain that were created by the dreaded blitz.

Also during the war overseas welfare workers, which included members of the Canadian Red Cross and St. John Ambulance served overseas in support of the injured. They have had basic access to income tested veterans programs but limited or no access to pensions for a service related disability and no access to the veterans independence program.

One of the more important aspects of the bill is working to ensure equity of access to services and benefits to all Canadian forces members regardless of whether the injury occurred in Canada or in a foreign deployment.

At the present time Canadian forces members can only receive a Veterans Affairs Canada disability pension for a service related disability if the disability occurred in or resulted from service in a special duty area such as a peacekeeping mission.

For those Canadian forces members who suffer a service related disability while fighting a flood in Canada, for example, their disability can be assessed and their entitlement to a disability pension may be agreed upon while they are still serving. However, no Veterans Affairs Canada disability pension can begin to be paid until after they have left the Canadian forces.

The amendments in Bill C-41 would remove this inequity and allow all Canadian forces members with a related disability to receive a Veterans Affairs Canada disability pension upon application regardless of where the injury occurred.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the legions in my riding of Halifax West for their work not only in support of veterans but also in terms of the incredibly positive role they play in the community.

I have attended many events hosted by these legions. I continue to be struck not only by their camaraderie but also by their social conscience and community support. The legions in my area have sponsored seniors dinners at Christmastime. When we go to those dinners and see the joy on the faces of those seniors, we realize how much these veterans are giving back even yet to their communities in terms of supporting our seniors and helping to bring some joy and happiness into their lives.

I have attended special awards nights where legions honour members who have served for a long time within their organizations. It is important that we honour people while they are still alive. Far too often people are spoken of after they have gone. It is nice when we take the time to honour people while they can still appreciate receiving that honour for the service they are rendering.

I have also gone to events in the Camp Hill hospital in Halifax where legion members go at Christmastime and visit with seniors and people who live in those residences. They take not only material gifts but also the gifts of love and compassion. The appreciation is reflected in the faces of the people who reside in that facility when someone comes around and wishes them a merry Christmas and a happy new year and shows some interest and concern in their state of well-being.

I have a cousin who is a veteran. He unfortunately suffered a stroke many years ago so he is not able to speak. He recognizes me and has a wonderful smile on his face when I go to visit him. The legion from Whites Lake quite often takes the residents from Camp Hill out to its headquarters to a special event for them.

On one occasion when my cousin was there a family with a small infant allowed him to hold the baby. Just seeing the look on his face, the smile, the sense of contentment and happiness at holding that young child, showed that even though he was disabled by a stroke he still had a certain compassion and a certain sense of well-being. His relationship with that infant was something that one had to be there to experience.

This tells us again how important veterans are to our community and what they give back to our community. Even those who may appear to have a disability are still able to give and to appreciate love and respect.

I thank the following legions in my area for their ongoing work: The Beford Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 95, Lakeside Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 156, Spryfield Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 152, St. Margarets Bay Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 116, and Whites Lake Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 153.

I want to have it recorded in the House of Commons that these legions provide an outstanding service to their communities and for this we thank them.

As we stand in support of this legislation, the point I want to leave is that anything we can do to advance the cause of equity, fairness and justice for veterans who served our country so well we should be glad to do. It is for this reason that the NDP is standing in support of this legislation.

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12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-41 on behalf of the member for Saint John, our veterans affairs critic who has certainly done yeoman service on behalf of veterans.

I am sure she takes a personal interest in every veteran in the country. If veterans fall somewhere and hurt themselves, I often think she feels the pain because she is so much involved with them and so concerned about their welfare. In fact she will drop any issue she is working on if a veteran's issue comes up. She will deal with it first as a priority item. That is a very commendable approach.

Generally speaking we support Bill C-41 for all the good things it proposes to do, but we do it with reservation because of the problems that are already in the system which are not being addressed or not being resolved. We would like to see those problems addressed first before we add additional responsibilities for the department and add new obligations for very lean resources that are not available.

As members of parliament I am sure we all deal with veterans affairs issues. Certainly in my area I deal with veterans on a day to day basis. Veterans have all kinds of challenges and all kinds of problems. In the run of a day if I have nine appointments usually three of them will be Canada pension plan, three might be Revenue Canada, but there will be three with regard to veterans affairs. They are very similar. They are almost all the same. They run along the same lines of a few subjects. It is a repeat event on every visit.

The veterans independence program, the VIP program, is designed to make the quality of life a little better for veteran. It has a very low threshold of income before one is disqualified from access to VIP. That is a problem we have in our area. Many veterans who really need the service, just to improve their quality of life a bit, are denied access.

Also access to pensions for disabilities is an ongoing problem. It is an involved procedure that seems to be dragged out for long periods of time and causes more stress and grief for already disabled veterans. Part of the problem is that medical records in the military are not complete. Often a veteran has a problem. Everyone knows of it, but there is no proof in his or her medical records. When there is no proof it is extremely difficult to convince the Department of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge the problem.

I have heard from veterans who served overseas but there was no record of that service, even though everyone knew they had been there. I have heard from veterans who served in Atlantic waters but still there is no record of it and they were unable to prove they had that service even though their colleagues would acknowledge it and back them up. The benefit of doubt clause sounds good but sometimes it seems that the benefit of the doubt is not given to veterans.

Also there is access to the merchant navy package which passed in February 2000. This was something for which the member for Saint John fought long and hard to try to access. We were all very pleased when it came through, but we understand only half the applications for this program have been addressed. There are a lot of problems in qualifying. Half the applications are not even processed. Of the half that are processed some have received some money but none have received all the money that has been talked about and promised to them.

Every day my office receives calls asking when they will get money from the merchant navy program or when they will get the balance. There seem to be no answers to these questions. That in itself is frustrating and creates more stress for veterans, none of whom are very young.

This raises a question. If the resources are not there to address the program instituted in February of this year, how can we add new programs when we know the resources will not be available to deal with them? The program is good but the resources are weak. That is the problem. There is no point in having the programs if the department and the minister do not have access to the funding. Certainly they do not have the access to funding to deal with the current programs.

Another issue I mentioned earlier was the VIP program. I am certainly glad to see all the important ministers in the House today. I am certainly pleased to see the Minister of Veterans Affairs in particular. I would like to make him aware of an initiative taken by branch No. 10 of the legion from Amherst, a group led by Pastor Harold Higgins which included Russell Clark, Harold Ettinger and Peter Lynd. They developed a motion that was taken to Atlantic command of the legion and then went to dominion command. It was passed all the way through the system. It was to make it easier for veterans to access VIP. This is a good program. It does not cost a lot of money and it increases the quality of life of veterans.

Most veterans are disqualified because the program is income tested at a very low threshold. We would like to see the threshold increased so that veterans can earn a little money, have a little income and still access the VIP program. It is not an expensive program, but it is a good program and it should be expanded to all veterans. Many people think it should include all veterans. At least the threshold should be changed to allow more veterans to participate in it.

The motion went all the way through dominion command and across the country to almost every legion in Canada. They all had a say in it. It started in branch No. 10 at Amherst. I am proud to be associated with that legion. I hope the minister will take note and see if he can access the motion and approve it, as I know he will.

It is very frustrating to be approached by veterans as a member of parliament. We know what they have done. We know the sacrifices they have made. In some cases they have visible disabilities. In some cases we cannot see the disabilities but we know they have them. I can think of several situations that are very trying. These people cannot access pensions because the appeal board or whoever says there is no proof that the injury was incurred while in service. There is no proof how it happened. There are no records in the files.

However, all their colleagues and the veterans involved know. I find it very frustrating to deal with those situations. It is not their fault the records are not complete. It is not their fault the information and the backup are not there. It makes it extremely difficult for them to access these programs. I know of some veterans personally and it is awful to deal with them because we know we cannot arrive at the right solution.

If there is some indication that the veteran is qualified for the pension and some information that says he may not be qualified, the veteran is supposed to get the benefit of the doubt. I find that they do not get the benefit of the doubt. I would like the minister to make note of that if he would.

We support Bill C-41. We are really pleased that the government will recognize the people involved in these conflicts even though they were not directly in the military. These civilians were involved in all kinds of duties and activities which provided support and help to our military people who actually carried arms and were involved in the conflicts.

We are also pleased that Canadian forces members who are still in the service will now be recognized if they have a disability that was incurred while in service. That is most appropriate. It recognizes the contribution they made to our country and to the service.

While we support the bill we are a little skeptical because of the history and the track record of the merchant navy process. That has not gone as well as expected. I understand they have had far more applications than their homework had indicated they would have and this has created a problem.

The bottom line is that there are merchant navy veterans who feel they are entitled to this program and are not able to access it. We hope that this does not happen with the new programs that are included in the bill. It is one thing to have the program but we have to have the people, the resources and the funding to back them up. Otherwise all it does is create more frustration and more difficulty for veterans rather than help them.

On behalf of the member for Saint John, our veterans affairs critic, we are pleased to support Bill C-41. We do hope that the minister has the support of the finance minister to put the resources and people in place to support this.

The last speaker mentioned the involvement of the legions in his riding. My riding has 17 legions and every single one is active as a community organization. They are great organizations which provide all kinds of things like meals on wheels and help to seniors. They provide money for people who have disabilities who are not involved with the military at all. Every single legion in my riding performs an important service to the community. I would like to acknowledge them as the last member did because they are often not recognized for their contributions to the community.

I have watched the minister take notes with every word I said and I am sure he will respond to them exactly as I asked.

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1 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, I too am very pleased to join my colleagues, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the opposition critics and others to speak in support of this legislation.

This is an omnibus bill and by definition is quite detailed on the various pieces of veterans legislation that it updates. It is not our purpose today to debate the intricate details. I am sure that will be handled well enough by the committee. Today perhaps is the day to agree to the principles contained in the major sections of the bill.

Let us take the extension of benefits to civilian groups who performed wartime overseas service. I hope this is not presuming too much on my part but I dare say that aside from the reference to the Red Cross, most of us do not know of the services performed by other civilian groups such as the Newfoundland foresters, Canadian firefighters or Ferry Command, and if we have heard of them, we do not necessarily associate these groups with the provision of veterans benefits. Yet when we look closer at what they did, their contribution was monumental.

The Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit assisted the war effort by cutting timber in Scotland which was predominantly used in British coal mining operations. The British were in dire need of increased production since coal was a desperately needed fuel. Many of the 3,600 Newfoundlanders who served with the forestry unit would later join the British armed forces.

The Canadian Corps of Firefighters represent another hidden story of service and sacrifice. They were called on to help fight the dreadful fires created by the blitz on London and other British cities.

Then there are the overseas welfare workers which included the Canadian Red Cross and St. John Ambulance who served as welfare workers overseas in support of the injured.

And finally there are the overseas air crews of Ferry Command who assisted the war effort by ferrying military aircraft across the Atlantic from North America.

The men and women of these civilian units, like their military counterparts, served their nation and the allied cause with duty and dedication. Like their military comrades from the second world war their numbers are quickly fading with the passing of the years. It does not seem too much to ask for easier access to disability and allowance benefits and through regulatory change to health care benefits.

The issue of clause 46 of the bill has come up. It was mentioned by the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. It relates to the benefits enjoyed by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In speaking with the minister on this issue, it would appear as though there may have been an unfortunate oversight with respect to that clause appearing in the bill. I know it is the minister's desire to have that clause removed. I am prepared to undertake to the House to introduce an amendment to that effect to deal with the concerns that have been raised by members, and which exist as well on the government side, to have that issue dealt with.

Turning briefly to currently serving military personnel, the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs has studied the modern day problems of the regular forces. I have been a member of the committee since the last election and was pleased to work with colleagues from every party in the House who were part of the quality of life study. Each of us came away from that study feeling as though we had made a contribution and a difference in the lives of the men and women serving in the Canadian forces.

The department has taken the recommendations of the committee to heart and has acted in concert with DND to take a more comprehensive approach to dealing with injured or disabled clients. For its part, DND has established five regional operational trauma, stress and support centres located near major military bases across the nation. Veterans affairs clients have access to DND's post-deployment regional health centres for clinical evaluation and assessment purposes.

In addition the department continues to deploy its personnel to bases to deliver briefings on our services and benefits to Canadian forces members across the country.

Where veterans affairs can act to improve access to veterans benefits without changes to the legislation, it is in fact doing so. Where there is a need for legislation of course is in having a level playing field for all members of the armed forces wherever they serve at home or abroad.

As hon. members have heard, this bill fills that gap by allowing all Canadian forces to have equal access to disability pensions and related health care benefits regardless of whether the injury occurred in a special duty area. I know hon. members will have no difficulty whatsoever supporting the provisions of the legislation in that regard.

Nor do I imagine will members opposite have any difficulty supporting the removal of longstanding irritants that veterans have had with current veteran legislation, irritants such as the handling of mistaken overpayments, the correction of the negative consequences of lump sum payments and their effect on war veterans allowance, and the issue of income testing and access to health care. The changes proposed by Bill C-41 will remove those irritants. As a result veterans will feel more secure that their benefits will continue unimpeded by bureaucratic rules and regulations.

One of the things the department prides itself on is the front line service it gives to veterans at its offices across the nation. Staff in the field have developed long term relationships with veterans, some of them spanning the decades. They realize that many of their aging clients can have difficulty navigating the complex and complicated rules and regulations, not only as they exist within veterans affairs but with other federal departments as well.

The department has taken on a full service profile when a veteran walks in the door. Put simply, this client centred approach makes a commitment to design, implement and maintain services from the client's point of view, not from the point of view of the bureaucrats.

Veterans Affairs Canada has been a leader in client centred service delivery. At its best, this type of service means cutting red tape and communicating in plain language. It means making sure that our veterans and all other clients who require our services never feel that they have knocked on the wrong door when looking for our help. Veterans affairs has served clients in this manner for decades now.

Members will notice provisions in Bill C-41 which ensure that the department can continue to render this type of front line service. The provisions have been carefully worded in order to balance service for our increasingly aging clients with their privacy rights.

Finally there are several more specific measures, some of which we have already heard about. They include for instance: permitting both veteran disability pensioners who are married or living common law to receive the married rate; extending remission authority to all types of overpayments of veterans benefits; reformulating the provisions governing the assessment of outside disability benefits, such as dealing with workers compensation or court awarded damages for personal injury; and providing for a one year continuation of a deceased veteran's pension to the guardian of the veteran's surviving children.

Other measures included are: consolidating the provisions relating to service and special duty areas as well as Korean war service directly into the pension act; improving and clarifying the exchange and use of client information, both internally and with other departments; insulating client information from having to be disclosed by public servants in non-criminal legal proceedings; reformulating the provisions governing the amount of income support under the War Veterans Allowance Act when income has declined since the previous year; allowing compassionate awards to be continued to survivors without the necessity of a high level readjudication.

There are also technical housekeeping changes to clarify regulation making authorities, to improve the wording, to ensure the use of gender inclusive language, to correct cross references, and to remove obsolete acts and provisions.

That is quite a list. It is not called an omnibus bill without good reason. Some of the changes are pretty technical and they can be discussed at length during the committee. As a committee member, I certainly look forward to that discussion.

If we keep our eye on the ball we see three distinct parts to the legislation. It provides benefits to previously overlooked civilian groups who provided service to the war effort. It improves access to disability pensions for currently serving Canadian forces members so that the playing field is level for everyone. It makes housekeeping changes that will remove irritants for veterans and clean up or remove outdated parts of the legislation.

I would like to make reference to the issue of the merchant navy special benefit which has been raised by a number of members and provide some up to date information with respect to the processing of those claims. That issue has certainly been raised in the local media around Ottawa and it is essential that members have the most up to date information.

This is the current status of the merchant navy special benefit. As of the July 31 deadline for applications, 13,928 applications had been received. Sixty per cent of those have been processed. More than 4,300 cheques totalling approximately $31 million had been issued by September 14, 2000. The Government of Canada had earmarked $50 million for the merchant navy veterans special benefit and Veterans Affairs Canada is currently doing a statistical sample of the remaining applications in order to project the total cost of the benefit. This information should be available early in the fall.

During the early weeks of August 2000, departmental officials consulted with five veterans organizations that represent the interests of merchant navy veterans. The purpose of the consultations was to provide information to the organizations about the status of processing applications and to seek their advice and input on policy issues that had been previously raised, including dual service in the military, review and appeal process and the requirement for payment of war risk bonus. The discussions were productive and the veterans organizations continue to provide constructive input.

All of that to say that the government is certainly very, very concerned about the status of veterans in Canada. I for one, working with the defence and veterans affairs committee, have sensed a very non-political approach to this by members of the committee. I find it unfortunate personally that some media people have decided to try to turn this into something of a political football.

In conclusion, as far as Bill C-41 is concerned, it has my full and unqualified support. With some changes I believe that the committee can make it an even better bill to ensure that our veterans receive the very best of benefits and care from the Government of Canada.

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1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Civilian War-Related Benefits ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Civilian War-Related Benefits ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Civilian War-Related Benefits ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Civilian War-Related Benefits ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under the circumstances, I believe if you were to seek the consent of the House, the House would give its consent to see the clock as 1.30 p.m. and we might proceed to private members' business.

Civilian War-Related Benefits ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there unanimous consent to see the clock as being 1.30 p.m.?

Civilian War-Related Benefits ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:15 p.m.


Rick Casson Reform Lethbridge, AB

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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario


John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate of Bill C-321, an act to amend the criminal code to provide for the forfeiture of property relating to child pornography crimes. At the outset I wish to congratulate the hon. member for Lethbridge for his concern about child pornography, a concern that the government shares with him and a great number of Canadians.

Our children are the most vulnerable members of our society and we must do all that we can to protect our children from harm. No one will deny that child pornography seriously harms children. I believe it does so in at least two ways. It creates a permanent record of the sexual abuse of children and perpetuates the message that children are appropriate sexual objects. Indeed, they are not.

Child pornography was specifically prohibited by amendment to the criminal code, enacted in 1993. This amendment, which is now subsection 163.1 of the criminal code, created new offences for the importation, distribution, sale, production and simple possession of child pornography. All these offences carry a greater penalty than the offences prohibiting obscene materials involving adults.

These criminal code provisions against child pornography take on a greater importance with the rapidly expanding use of the Internet. It is now easier to communicate valuable information and carry on discussions on all kinds of subjects with people who share our interests. Unfortunately it also makes it easier to disseminate and collect images of child pornography.

The purpose of the child pornography provisions is primarily to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, but also to send a clear message that it is not appropriate to have sex with children or to portray them as sexual objects. I know that Canadians are greatly supportive of this legislation prohibiting child pornography.

The purpose of Bill C-321 is very much in line with the purpose of the child pornography provisions since its purpose is to create an additional deterrent to child pornography. It would add to the sentence currently available under the criminal code a financial penalty that would result from a forfeiture to the crown of all tools and instruments that have been used in the commission of the offence. Bill C-321 would provide the judge with discretion to forfeit anything “by means of or in relation to which” a child pornography offence was committed. I wholeheartedly support this purpose.

However, I have some questions on the working of the provisions as drafted. I am particularly concerned that the bill might unnecessarily penalize individuals who have nothing to do with the offence.

It would be the case of an employee who uses the Internet during his lunch hour to download child pornography images on an office computer. He might also transmit these images to others; to do so, he would use the computer provided by his employer for conducting business for which he is employed. He would also use it to access and distribute child pornography without the knowledge of his employer and, of course, without his consent.

The offence would clearly be committed by means of the computer. If the employee was convicted of a child pornography offence, the judge could, in addition to sentencing him to imprisonment for up to 10 years, order the forfeiture of the computer. Bill C-321 would allow this. In this case the forfeiture would penalize the employer and not the employee who committed the offence. The person penalized would be an innocent third party and not the person guilty of the offence. This is a consideration that we should keep in mind.

I can see another problem in relation to forfeiture of “anything by means of which the offence was committed”. In order to receive and transmit on the Internet one needs a server or a router, which is typically owned by a service provider. Could the server be forfeited? I do not see anything in the bill that would prevent it. Other criminal code provisions that would allow forfeiture of the tools used in the commission of an offence specifically exempt public communications facilities and equipment from forfeiture. That is not the case here.

I support the purpose of this bill, but I have concerns with its practical implications. This bill may require further consideration and amendment.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at second reading of Bill C-321, an act to amend the criminal code to provide for the forfeiture of property relating to child pornography crimes. This bill, introduced by the member for Lethbridge, is votable, and the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of the amendment to the criminal code.

This bill consists of a single clause, which I will read:

  1. The Criminal Code is amended by adding the following after section 163.1:

163.2 Where a person is convicted of an offence under subsection 163.1(2), (3) or (4), the court that convicts the person may, in addition to any other punishment imposed on the person, order that anything by means of which or in relation to which the offence was committed be forfeited to Her Majesty in right of the province in which the person is convicted, for disposal as the Attorney General may direct.

Since this is a bit obscure for the average person, I will simplify.

The purpose of this amendment to the criminal code is to make it possible to confiscate, by court order, and following a conviction, any material that has been used to commit a child pornography offence.

In order to properly take in the ramifications of the bill introduced by the member for Lethbridge, it is important first of all to have a thorough understanding of the implications of the offences listed under section 163.1, which have to do with the making, distribution or sale, and possession of child pornography.

Prior to 1993, the criminal code contained no specific provisions relating to child pornography.

In 1993, as the result of the Butler decision, parliament passed Bill C-128, an act to amend the criminal code and the customs tariff (child pornography and corrupting morals). Its aim was to amend the criminal code to expressly prohibit child pornography.

In the Butler decision, which was given in 1992, the supreme court had to decide on the constitutionality of the definition of obscenity as set out in section 163(8) of the criminal code. The court stated that pornography describing sexual acts involving children constituted the undue exploitation of sex, and accordingly the production and distribution of this type of pornography were prohibited by the provisions of the criminal code.

Although freedom of expression guaranteed under section 2( b ) of the charter of rights and freedoms—fundamental freedoms such as the freedoms of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including the freedom of the press and other means of communication—was infringed upon as far as the supreme court is concerned, this infringement is justifiable under the first section of the charter.

However, the criminal code made no reference to the offence of simple possession of child pornography. Bill C-128 therefore filled this legal void by adding specific provisions to the criminal code with respect to child pornography, including a definition of it and providing that the distribution, sale, production and possession relating to this definition were criminal offences.

In adding the offence of simple possession, the aim of the legislator was to dissuade people from undertaking this sort of activity and thus further protect children against sexual exploitation.

Recently in British Columbia, John Sharpe's acquittal—the decision drew attention to the urgent and growing problem of child pornography—sparked a general outcry right across the country.

Not only was this decision questionable, relating as it did pornography with freedom of expression, it also pointed out the weakness of the instruments available to the law in seizures of pornographic material.

Sharpe was charged with the offences in subsections 163.1(3) and (4) of the Criminal Code for possessing pornographic material involving children.

In this decision, the judge declared the section invalid because it infringed section 2( b ) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and acquitted John Sharpe accordingly.

According to Justice Shaw, it was not clearly demonstrated that child pornography had direct harmful effects. He also pointed out that freedom of expression is an important value, that an individual's personal effects relate to that person's particular character and personality and that banning mere possession has an impact on a highly intimate and private aspect of a person's life.

Following on the Sharpe case, a motion relating to child pornography was brought before the House. That motion, by what was then, Reform Party, called for the government to immediately the move to use the notwithstanding clause in order to maintain the ban on the simple possession of child pornography as set out in subsection 163.1(4), which had been struck down by the Sharpe decision.

Reiterating its attachment to the social values condemning child pornography, the Bloc Quebecois expressed its conviction that, although this issue needed to be addressed, it was premature to immediately invoke the notwithstanding clause and that justice ought to follow its course to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Bloc Quebecois therefore opposed the motion.

Only this past January 18 did the supreme court hear this controversial case. The supreme court decision, which is about to be released, will attract the attention and interest of everyone. Let us recall that the supreme court stipulated in 1992, in Butler, that “The overriding objective of s. 163 is not moral disapprobation but the avoidance of harm to society, and this is a sufficiently pressing and substantial concern to warrant a restriction on freedom of expression”.

We are confident that the justices of the supreme court will rule along the same line in this case, justifying the attack on guaranteed charter rights and quashing the British Columbia Appeal Court judgment. The similarity with Butler leads us to believe that this will be justified under section one of the charter, given the potential of irreparable harm to the children.

Right now, section 164 of the code provides for the seizure, under certain conditions, of pornographic material, but this section has a very limited application. Only copies of a publication or copies of a representation or written material may be seized.

The purpose of Bill C-321 is to make it possible to seize everything that was used to commit an offence. Accordingly, under this new legislation, it would be possible to seize such things as the computer used to download the pornographic publications, the printer, the camera or anything else that made it possible to make, distribute, sell or possess the child pornography.

There are increasing numbers of organized networks for the distribution of pornographic material and their activities are made easier by the explosion of telecommunications technologies, which make access almost universal. Anyone, including children, has access, which is why it is important to put even more energy than ever into fighting these networks and giving the courts the tools they need.

Not only must the final product, whether copies of a publication or copies of a representation or written material, be seized, but so must everything used to produce and distribute this pornography. Only thus can we hope to help destabilize these networks and weaken their production capacity.

As the Bloc Quebecois pointed out during the debate held in the fall of 1999, it is imperative that section 163.1 stand, but what is also needed are tools that allow material to be seized, for the safety and dignity of our children. This is precisely what—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am sorry, but the hon. member's time is up.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

This is unfortunate. Could I have the unanimous consent of the House to finish my speech?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to read one last paragraph?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Madam Speaker, the bill introduced by the hon. member for Lethbridge is a laudable initiative. It improves the existing legislative provisions and will help lead an effective fight against pedophilia.

Consequently, the Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-321 and hopes that the committee will soon review it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Lethbridge for bringing forward the legislation. Bill C-321 is important to complete a process that has been under way in terms of dealing with child pornography. As he has indicated in his presentation, it fills a void which the last piece of legislation overlooked, I suspect inadvertently.

I also want to recognize that the initiative brought forward by the hon. member for Lethbridge was previously brought forward by the hon. member for Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing and also the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria. I am sure the hon. member is aware of their initiatives along a similar line. Today we have an opportunity to round out the legislation.

I want to address the concerns raised about the legislation by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. I think his concerns are inappropriate. I do not think he actually read the bill, because had he read it he would not have said what he did in the House of Commons. My friend from Lethbridge said he was open to suggestions and that we could amend the legislation if that is what is required if we need to improve it, but just to toss it out because somebody has some concern about some wording is inappropriate.

The parliamentary secretary said that this bill could penalize the employers of those weird people who use the Internet to download child pornography while they are at work. The legislation says:

Where a person is convicted of an offence under subsection 163.1(2), (3) or (4), the court that convicts the person may, in addition to any other punishment imposed on the person, order that anything by means of which or in relation to which the offence was committed be forfeited to Her Majesty in right of the province—

I emphasize that it uses the word may. In other words, the court may do this. No court in its right mind would say that if an employee of the House of Commons downloads child pornography the computers of the House of Commons will be forfeited. It is insanity. Give the judge some credit for making a reasonable decision.

The parliamentary secretary went on to say that perhaps the server could be forfeited. Imagine any judge saying that because a person was using a particular server on their computer while they were downloading pornographic pictures of children, the server on their computer system would be forfeited. It is just insanity.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary to at least read the legislation before he suggests that changes are required and notice that the word may is used and not the word shall. I see my friend the parliamentary secretary is back in the House of Commons. Perhaps he will have a chance to clarify his error on a point of order.

Colleagues in the New Democratic Party have been calling for this for a number of years. We will inevitably and undoubtedly endorse the bill when it comes up for a vote after another two hours of debate.

From a personal perspective I have received many representations, not only about this legislation but about the whole issue before us. I have had representations from the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies, from a variety of churches in my constituency, from the legal aid office and women's groups. I have heard from lawyers who see this abuse on a regular basis in their courtroom work. I have heard from a variety of unions, from the Kamloops and District Labour Council, from the chamber of commerce, from the regional district, from our mayor and council in Kamloops, and from a variety of non-profit agencies and associations. Of course many citizens have written to members. I suspect all of us have received a lot of mail on this issue.

We should endorse this bill enthusiastically. It should not be some serious debate, because who is in favour of child pornography? Obviously no one in the House is. We are dealing with some pretty unusual people to start with.

As the member for Lethbridge pointed out, this has come to us from the Internet. Internet abuse as he terms it is almost like a red light use of the Internet and the world wide web whereby a variety of pornography can be seen.

I suspect there is hardly anybody in here who has actually used a computer who has not come across a pornographic site. Often they show up when we do not expect them. A person may be interested in deer, for example, and may decide to look up Bambi. If the person looks up Bambi, a pornographic site comes up.

I suspect that kids all over the place are now being confronted with pornography by accident, let alone all the people we are talking about here, the child predators and people who prey on children. Everyone now has easy access to this.

I encourage the parliamentary secretary to talk to his colleagues. I suspect, from what I have heard on this side of the House, that we are supporting this private member's initiative. I would like to think that he and his colleagues in the Liberal Party would also support it. My goodness, what better way for the House to do something meaningful than to have every political party and the independents getting onside to discourage, in every way possible, people from using child pornography via the Internet.

If the parliamentary secretary has a concern about wording he should bring forward an amendment. That is what these debates are all about. I know he is a thoughtful individual and I would encourage him to do just that.

I think the case has been made. My hon. friend from Lethbridge, who pointed out from his research that 53% of all traffic on Internet deals with sex in some way or another, opens up some pretty interesting questions. Today we are focusing on the abuse of the Internet when it comes to child pornography. I think we need to do everything possible to deal with this, and this legislation takes us in that right direction.

My friend from Lethbridge also reminded us that this does not deal with the root cause, the individuals themselves who, because of their physiological and psychological makeup, are people who prey on children, who are pedophiles, people who are using the national and international sexual chat line to consciously victimize young people. We have to do whatever we possibly can to stop this.

Today my friend from Lethbridge brings forward a private member's bill that will close the gap somewhat. I hear from parliamentary secretary that the Liberals have some concerns, but I hope we can rectify those concerns by a simple amendment to the legislation or perhaps through regulation. After all, the legislation simply provides the overall umbrella. It is the regulations that flow from that which would be helpful. It is fair to say that no judge will suggest that we confiscate someone's computer because some individual in his or her employ decided to download some child pornography.

We in the New Democratic Party are pleased with anything we can do to stop the victimization of children in our society, whether it is the issue of child poverty and the suffering that causes children or the issue we are talking about today, the misuse of the Internet for child exploitation. We are very strongly behind any initiative to that extent.