Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate of Bill C-247, an act to amend the criminal code, forfeiture of property relating to child pornography crimes. I share the hon. member's concern about child pornography and I congratulate him for introducing the bill.
I can assure the hon. member that the concern about protecting children from predators is also of primary concern to the government. The Speech from the Throne was clear on that point. In the Speech from the Throne our government stated its full intention to “act to safeguard children from crimes, including criminals on the Internet” and to “take steps to ensure that our laws protect children from those who prey on their vulnerability”.
We all recognize that our children are the most vulnerable members of our society and we must do all we can to protect them from harm. No one will deny that child pornography seriously harms children. It does so in at least two ways. It creates a permanent record of the sexual abuse of children and it perpetuates the message that children are appropriate sexual objects. Indeed, they are not.
Child pornography was specifically prohibited by an amendment to the criminal code enacted in 1993. This amendment, which is now 163.1 of the criminal code, creates new offences for the production, importation, distribution, sale, possession for purposes of sale or distribution 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 were enacted to respond to the prevailing practices at the time. These practices were still primarily paper oriented and involved mechanical production and physical distribution practices.
Although the current offences have been successfully applied to electronic practices relating to child pornography, no one in 1993 anticipated the technological advances that were experienced in the last five years. No one anticipated how quickly new technologies would be embraced by such a large portion of the population, particularly young people. In particular, it was not anticipated at the time that computer systems, including the Internet, would become the instruments of choice for trading child pornography.
The Internet has made it easier to communicate valuable information and carry on discussions on all kinds of subjects with people who share similar interests. Unfortunately, it has made it easier to disseminate and collect images of child pornography.
Perhaps the time has come to take a close look at the child pornography provisions in order to determine whether they still apply to current practices.
The purpose of Bill C-247, like the purpose of Bill C-321 introduced by the hon. member for Lethbridge in the previous parliament, is to create an additional deterrent to the commission of a child pornography offence. The bill would add a component to the sentence currently available under the criminal code and deprive the person convicted of the offence of all tools and instruments that were used to commit the offence. The bill would provide for the forfeiture of these instruments to the crown.
I note the hon. member has added to the bill an element that was lacking in Bill C-321. It now specifies that an order cannot be made in respect to a thing that is not the property of a person who is not a party to the offence. It also specifically excludes the forfeiture of communications facilities and equipment.
I recognize that these changes make the bill more sound. However I have some questions on the working of the provisions as drafted.
For instance, while the bill provides that the judge should not order forfeiture when the person guilty of the offence is not the owner of the thing, it does not provide for the manner in which the owner would have his or her right to the property recognized.
I commend the hon. member for introducing the bill. It is a step in the right direction in our fight against child pornography. I support the principle of the bill. However more must be done if we want to adequately protect our children against sexual exploitation.
The Minister of Justice has a bill currently on notice. The hon. member might be pleasantly surprised when he sees it after introduction.