moved that Bill C-247, an act to amend the Criminal Code (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 once again present my bill, Bill C-247. For those who do not have a copy in front of them, Bill C-247 is an amendment to section 163.1 of the criminal code which would allow a court that convicts a person of an offence under those provisions to order the forfeiture of anything by means of which or in relation to which the offence was committed.
Before I start, I would like to recognize a number of people who have helped me with this process. One of the main drives behind this bill and this initiative is Detective Inspector Bob Matthews. He is the head of Canada's lead agency in the fight against child pornography. That is 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, and is one of Canada's top law enforcement agents in the field of child pornography investigations.
The second person I wish 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 victim's rights and has worked with members of parliament to change the justice system to place the rights of victims before criminals.
The list goes on. These individuals and many other law enforcement officers, victim's advocates, federal parliamentarians, provincial justice ministers and everyday normal Canadians from across this country have contacted me and offered their support. I want to thank these concerned Canadians and tell them to keep up the good work. I also want to thank them 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 fledgling 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 the graphical interface known as the worldwide web in 1993 has created a surge in popularity.
From just over 100 sites in 1993, the web has exploded 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 up until five years ago, yet today our children and our grandchildren are growing up having never known anything else but instantaneous communication. Businesses, organizations, government agencies and individuals have seized upon this technology by setting up websites and revolutionizing the interaction between people.
As in all facets of life there are decent, virtuous online users and there are deviant predators making use of this potent tool. 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 pornographic images of children on the Internet.
Detective Waters shared recent statistics with me that estimate that 53% of Internet traffic is concerned with sexually explicit material.
Calgary police detective Butch Dickens of the vice unit had this to say about child pornography on the Internet in a newspaper article last year. He states:
A year ago, we probably only got one phone call a month about it. Now we get four a day.
Before the advent of the worldwide 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 extremely perilous. Carefully arranged meetings, secret mailing lists and postal drops placed pedophiles at tremendous risk of being caught and punished. Those days are gone.
Inspector Bob Matthews relates:
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 the authorities.
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 they use to exploit children: Chatting online, Internet chat rooms, where users can send type to each other in real time, provide plentiful hunting grounds where child pornographers can stalk their young victims.
The next one is the sex tourism trade. With the increase in use of the Internet for the sex trade and sexual abuse against children, the number of websites providing information to travelling pedophiles has increased dramatically and is extremely explicit in detail.
Another technique is image morphing. With a decent computer and a little skill child pornographers can turn almost any picture into a pornographic image.
One of the worst of all is real time molestation, or streaming video, which shows live video on the Internet and enables child molesters to display their victims in real time to selected members of child pornography rings and clubs.
Skilled child pornographers will encrypt their messages, rendering them unreadable to outsiders.
These are some of the ways that they have been intruding into our homes and the lives of our children using the Internet.
Parents who were once confident that living in a small town would insulate them from the 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 occurring where children under the age of 18 are being threatened or even molested by someone they met online.
In July of last year, a 45 year old man from the P.E.I. town of Summerside plead guilty to a child pornography charge. He had secretly videotaped a 14 year old girl whom he had coerced into doing a striptease and then played it live on the Internet for viewers in a special interactive online chat room. That same month, on the other side of our country, police arrested a 28 year old Washington man in the ferry line up, ready to leave Vancouver Island. Police found a 14 year old B.C. girl in his van. They had been exchanging e-mails.
In March of last 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 for pedophiles, child molesters and pornographers the Internet is like a dream come true, it has become a nightmare for decent Canadians. The downward spiral into child exploitation usually commences with the collection of child pornography, progressing to sexually explicit online conversations with youngsters and eventually seeking child victims online for sex.
Tragically, authorities can only act when the pedophile acts on his urges. Experts report that before they are arrested, the average child molesting pedophile abuses 35 children. They will share methods and techniques in finding children, gaining their trust and facilitating seduction. Along the way many, compulsively save mementoes to validate their actions. This is how child pornography is created.
However, 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 restriction on speech is unacceptable and prefer to place the responsibility on the users. The answer lies somewhere in the middle of these two polar 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, Madame Justice Beverley McLachlin predicted the court would deal extensively with issues of computer crime. The court, she said, would have to find ways to cope with offences that were international in scope, given the breadth of the Internet and computer communications.
Strong, effective legislation is one way the impact of child pornographers can be reduced. The supreme court did the right thing in upholding the ban on this illicit material in the Sharpe case, but now we must provide another tool to the justice system to stem the tide of child pornography flooding the web.
In 1993, in the wake of the R. v Butler decision, parliament passed Bill C-128, criminalizing all aspects of child pornography, including the creation, distribution, importation and possession of such material. It is considered among the strongest anti-child pornography legislation in the world. That is something of which all Canadians can be proud.
Unfortunately, a provision ordering forfeiture of equipment was omitted. This omission can be best described as an oversight when one considers forfeiture orders exist in 55 different federal statutes and in various places in the criminal code. This clearly demonstrates the justice system is not opposed to such penalties for criminals. To correct this omission in the law, I introduced C-247, which would have given courts the authority to order forfeiture, providing police with 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 prosecutors rarely ask for equipment to be turned over.
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.
One must struggle to conceive of a crime more horrible than the sexual victimization of children.
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 this section is scant because the courts have had few opportunities to comment on it.
More dangerous is the fact that these plea bargains often allow the offender to return to the same environment in which he initially committed his crime. Returning him to that environment with high tech equipment intact is a temptation that could prove too strong to resist.
By ordering forfeiture, I believe the risk of recurrence can be lowered. Because a child pornography addiction is fueled by psychological problems, not by profit, many offenders will have limited means. Indeed, their compulsion likely creates financial hardship as the individual spends much of his free time and money in 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 reoffending. I understand it is only money and does not address the root of the problem, but it is one way we can slow down the traffic in this repulsive time.
The technology of our rapidly changing world continues to create legislative challenges for parliament. Expanding the legislation, filling in the holes, adapting to change, as we are trying to do, is necessary. Criminals do not stand still and neither should we.
It is out of my concern for the safety of Canadian children that I took this initiative, researched the issue of child pornography and the Internet and tabled the bill. I acknowledge that my bill may not have been written in the most precise of legal terminology, but I am nevertheless disappointed that it was not deemed votable this year, as it was last.
I took on the challenge of tabling a private member's bill, a justice themed bill no less, knowing the odds were stacked against my success, but I did it because I believe in the spirit of the bill and I could not stand by without doing something to help.
I urge all members to take some time to think of the difference, even if it is a small difference, that the bill could make in the fight against child pornography so that one like it may return to the order paper in the near future. I implore the justice minister to take the spirit of the bill and enshrine it in law. Consider the law enforcement agents who have made it their life's work to make our country safe from the perversions of these child molesters. Think of the victims of these cold-blooded criminals and help us make a difference.