House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pornography.


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4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Where is your common sense? Did it go down the tube?

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4:20 p.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

If the member opposite would stop yelling I would have an easier time speaking. I am using my common sense, thank you very much.

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4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

I doubt it. You haven't got any.

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4:20 p.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

It is important that we be very clear that this bill limits and will not allow anything that is beyond the public good. Therefore even a doctor who is taking pictures to educate others about children who have been harmed by others and to explain what happens when there is harm, that also will have to be very carefully controlled so it is not beyond the public good, that it cannot be exploitative of children.

It is a very narrow definition and I think it is a very important one because none of us would want to limit education and scientific research to protect our children. That is an important factor.

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4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two very quick questions for the hon. member.

First, does she believe that it is right for someone who has been convicted of exploiting children for pornography or for sexual interference with children to be given a conditional sentence and never serve a day in prison?

The second question is along that line. On April 24, 2002, the Canadian Alliance brought forward a motion that reads as follows:

That the government immediately introduce legislation to protect children from sexual predators including measures that raise the legal age of consent to at least sixteen, and measures that prohibit the creation or use of sexually explicit materials exploiting children or materials that appear to depict or describe children engaged in sexual activity.

What rationale can the member give that would explain her government's position on that motion and how will the members explain their own position in voting against it?

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4:25 p.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess the member was not listening earlier but I did in fact say that what I think is important is that we do not need to protect 14 and 15 year old children from kissing each other. That is acceptable behaviour. Probably the member opposite kissed a few people when he was 14 or 15. Although it is hard to imagine now, he might have actually kissed someone when he was 15. We do not need to protect them from that kind of sexual behaviour. However we do need to protect 16 and 17 year olds who are in an exploitive relationship. This bill offers more protection than his motion did on consent.

The member needs to understand that we are against the sexual exploitation of children and the use of child pornography. The bill will go much further than whatever he has proposed to protect children.

In terms of conditional sentences, we have had that debate. The member opposite should know that there is a very specific situation where they are allowed. There are cases that we all know of where they might have been appropriate.

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4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Before resuming debate, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable, Auditor General's Report; the hon. member for Prince Albert, Taxation; the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, Highway Infrastructure.

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4:25 p.m.

Western Arctic Northwest Territories


Ethel Blondin-Andrew LiberalSecretary of State (Children and Youth)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding the protection of children and other vulnerable persons, and the Canada Evidence Act.

Bill C-20 proposes a broad package of criminal law reforms that seek to better protect children against sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect. It proposes reforms that will facilitate testimony by child victims and witnesses and other vulnerable victims and witnesses in criminal justice proceedings. It also proposes the creation of a new offence of voyeurism, and all the details are available in the information made available to members of the House.

I will speak strictly to the specifics of the amendments. I am not going to speak to things that we would wish were in the amendments because that would just lead to more contention, controversy, and a lot of difficult feelings and challenging situations among the various members. That is not very useful, so I would like to focus my comments on the proposed amendments relating to child pornography, as my job has to do with children. It is an issue which regrettably is not a new area of concern for all hon. members. It is ongoing and it is extremely sad that our society as a whole has to confront this, challenge it and attempt in every way possible to right this situation with our children.

The sexual exploitation of children, society's most vulnerable group, in any form, including child pornography, is to be condemned without any rationalization, absolutely condemned. Bill C-20 recognizes this and proposes amendments to our existing child pornography provisions that I believe will serve to better protect children against this form of sexual exploitation.

There are other forms of abuse of children that are perpetrated, where children are prevailed upon, such as child prostitution and sexual abuse, whether it be in the home or in any institution, by caregivers, teachers or any other member of society. Human smuggling and child smuggling have a lot to do with this issue as well. If we look at the whole commercial sexual exploitation of children in an international sense, we will see that it is pervasive and difficult. We challenge issues regarding child prostitution and we get technology merging with a whole new array of issues that we have to try to control, such as pornography through the Internet. We challenge that. We have made some progress. There is also human smuggling, another emerging issue in the sexual exploitation of children. It is ongoing. It is difficult. Those things that should work for us as a society, to make a better society, in a sense begin to work against us and against children because of the minds of those perpetrators whose intent is the exploitation of children and the most vulnerable in our society.

Bill C-20's child pornography amendments respond in a very direct and meaningful way to issues highlighted by the March 2002 case involving Robin Sharpe. We are all aware of the sad details of this case, of the absolutely abhorrent attitude displayed by this individual and his total disregard for his fellow human beings, especially children.

First, Bill C-20 proposes to broaden the definition of written child pornography. Currently, written child pornography is defined as written material that “advocates or counsels” sexual activity with a young person under the age of 18 years, which would be an offence under the Criminal Code. In its January 2001 decision in the Sharpe case, the Supreme Court of Canada interpreted the existing definition and its requirement that written material “advocate and counsel” as meaning material that when objectively viewed actively induces or encourages the commission of a sexual offence against a child.

I am sounding technical because the law is technical. These components and these amendments are technical. This is a human issue, but when we are dealing with the complexities of law making and amending legislation, this is the way it is. We cannot wish it away by just taking a simplistic approach. It does not happen that way.

Bill C-20 proposes to broaden the definition to also include written material that describes prohibited sexual activity with a child where the written description of the activity is the dominant characteristic of the material and the written description is done for a sexual purpose. Intent and depiction play heavily in the broadening of this definition. This proposed amendment recognizes the risk of harm that such material can pose to society by portraying children as a class of objects for sexual exploitation.

Bill C-20 also proposes to amend the existing defences for child pornography. Currently, the Criminal Code provides a defence, which is inconceivable, but it does that, as that is the law, for material that has artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose. On a personal level, I just cannot even conceive of it, but that is the way it is. I am not a lawyer. I am not a judge. I am a legislator.

It also makes the public good defence available for all child pornography offences. This is an extremely contentious, controversial and sensitive part of the Criminal Code, on which no doubt everyone has an opinion or a bias. Everyone knows that in any way they deal with it does not mean that they condone child pornography, absolutely not.

Bill C-20 proposes to merge these two defences into one defence of public good. By doing so, Bill C-20 introduces an important new second step in the analysis of when a defence to a child pornography offence would be available.

I cannot even imagine that if we cannot even define it, although we can define it, as my colleague has done, in a minimal way, if we cannot even define what a defence of public good is, that there would be any instance in which a defence would be allowed. So just on that point I think that there is a lot of room for defending children with the amendments that we have put forward, and legislation can always be amended and perfected. That is what our role is here in the House.

Under Bill C-20, a court would be required to consider whether the act or material in question serves the public good. If it does serve the public good, then a court must also consider whether the act or material goes beyond what serves the public good. If it exceeds the public good, no defence will be available. I would weigh heavily on the side of the children; if it is even perceived in any way that children would be affected and those people who are vulnerable would be affected, no defence will be available.

This proposed amendment builds upon the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Sharpe case. In its decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that something that is necessary to the administration of justice or the pursuit of science, literature or art, for example, may serve the public good. Under the existing defence of artistic merit, artwork or material that had any objectively established artistic value benefited from the defence.

Under Bill C-20, this is not the end of the analysis. Even if something is found to serve the public good, and that should be understood, the court must then consider whether it goes beyond what serves the public good. In other words, does the risk of harm posed by the act or material in question exceed the public good or interest that it serves? This is a kind of second review.

Bill C-20's proposed child pornography amendments are significant. Canada's child pornography laws are among the toughest in the world. They do not suit everyone, and not everyone will be happy or satisfied, but it is a work in progress. We all love our children, we all value them and we are working on it. The adoption of Bill C-20's amendments will reaffirm this leadership role in protecting children from sexual exploitation through child pornography.

I hope that all members can support these amendments because, as I indicated, they are very specific. They are not to be confused with other things we would like to see happen. This very specifically relates to child pornography and very specifically relates to providing protection that is not there now, so I am hoping that we will have support from others. There are other issues and we will continue to battle to provide protection for children and other vulnerable persons in our society.

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4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her submission today in regard to Bill C-20. I think all sides of the House recognize that we need to protect our children and take measures that will be strong enough, that they indeed will be protection and not simply lip service paid to a problem that is recognized by most people across the country.

My question for the hon. member is this. Does she believe that conditional sentencing is appropriate for someone who is convicted of sexual interference with a child or of producing or spreading around child pornography?

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4:35 p.m.


Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am not an expert in sentencing. I am not a lawyer, a judge or a peace officer, but I am an advocate for children. I have spent a lot of my time working against the commercial sexual exploitation of children. I believe that those who perpetrate crimes against children and vulnerable people should be punished, and there is a process for that.

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4:40 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act.

As members may have noticed during my previous speeches in the House, I am very concerned by all the issues that relate closely or remotely to children. This is why I wanted to take part in today's debate. In fact, these issues are of concern to us all.

First, I want to point out that we support the principle of Bill C-20. As I said earlier, the idea is to tighten up several important aspects of the criminal law by introducing new provisions made necessary by the technology that surrounds us and keeps changing at an incredible pace.

However, we remain vigilant regarding certain aspects of the proposed changes, namely the wording of certain provisions relating to child pornography and to consent to sexual relations. We feel that it is appropriate to debate these issues and to hear many witnesses in committee.

An initial reluctance deals with the issue of consent to sexual relations. The Criminal Code currently contains provisions regarding consent to sexual relations. According to those provisions, the consent of a person under the age of fourteen is not a defence to a charge of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault, exhibitionism or fondling. We can, therefore, deduce that a person aged fourteen and older is capable of giving such consent.

We can also interpret this provision to mean that the consent of a complainant can be a defence if the latter is between twelve and fourteen years of age or if the accused is between twelve and sixteen years of age, if the accused is not more than two years older than the complainant or, finally, if the accused is not in a situation of trust or authority over the complainant.

We can also conclude that a person in a situation of trust or authority cannot sexually interfere with a person between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, even if the minor consents.

These provisions of the Criminal Code were strongly criticized, mainly by the Alliance, which wanted to raise the age of sexual consent to sixteen. The Alliance members concluded that unless the age of consent was raised, Canada was at risk of becoming a sex tourism destination since sexual relations with minors aged fourteen and older are not illegal here. It is important to note, however, that child prostitution is illegal in Canada.

We are still opposed to raising the age of consent. Sexual relations among youth aged fourteen and fifteen are now tolerated by society.

Furthermore, we believe that we must speak out against the inconsistencies in the Alliance's positions. In the debate on the bill to amend provisions regarding young offenders, members of the Canadian Alliance said that a child aged fourteen or fifteen is responsible enough to be tried in adult court, but when it comes to consenting to sexual activity, that same youth aged fourteen or fifteen is not responsible enough to give consent. It is impossible to know where one stands with the Alliance, given such inconsistencies.

Bill C-20, as proposed by the Minister of Justice, provides for amendments to the provisions on sexual consent, but they are not the amendments requested by the Alliance.

Instead, Bill C-20 creates a new concept of consent, namely exploitation. An adult cannot have a sexual relation with a minor if he is in a situation that is exploitative of the minor.

Subsection 153(1.2) lists factors to be considered in determining whether a person is in a relationship that is exploitative of the young person. The factors are the age difference between the person and the young person, the evolution of their relationship and the degree of control or influence by the person over the young person.

The Bloc Quebecois is reticent about the application of this new concept. At first glance, it creates legal uncertainty.

Based on the wording of the proposed provision, an adult who has sexual relations with a young person could never be certain whether he or she is committing a criminal offence, because sections of the Criminal Code leave it to the judge's interpretation, even though the young person consented.

These leads us to our second point. A parent who disapproves of his young child's choice of lover can always file a complaint with the police, even if the factors that led him to do so are not those provided for by the legislator. This adds to the legal uncertainty and the complexity of the interpretation, which once again rests completely with the judge.

We feel that we could define the objectives of these provisions in committee upon hearing witnesses.

One thing worries me, however. Although the purpose of the bill is to protect children and other vulnerable persons, it seems that, above all, the interests of the child must be taken into consideration. It would be preferable to be consistent in our objectives in terms of children and young persons.

The application of the Divorce Act used this same principle as a guideline for interpretation. I believe this principle must be taken into consideration here to give the appropriate direction to Bill C-20.

As for the rapid advances in communications and information technologies, we are aware that guidelines are needed in reaction to some sombre realities. I am thinking of voyeurism and child pornography.

For example, the potential abuse of netcams, which send images directly to the Internet, is a subject of considerable public concern. Some people have particular, and justifiable, concerns about the clandestine viewing or recording of certain acts or actions for sexual purposes, not to mention that such viewing or recording is also a blatant violation of privacy.

That is why we find Bill C-20 adding two new offences to the Criminal Code. The purpose of the first is to make it illegal to deliberately observe or record another person in circumstances where that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, in three specific instances.

The first involves observation or recording for a sexual purpose. The second is observation or recording of a person in a place in which a person can reasonably be expected to be nude or to be engaged in sexual activity. The third is when the person observed is nude or engaged in sexual activity, and the observation or recording is done for the purpose of observing or recording a person in such a state or engaged in such activity.

The second offence proposed in Bill C-20 addresses the distribution of material known to have been produced in the process of committing the offence of voyeurism. The maximum sentence for all voyeurism-related offences would be five years imprisonment.

Lastly, copies of recordings obtained in the process of committing the offence of voyeurism for the purpose of sale or distribution could be seized or confiscated. In such cases, the courts could order deletion of all such material from a computer system.

We believe that the legislative provisions relating to voyeurism were made necessary by the multiplication of surveillance cameras and of means of distributing images taken by such cameras rapidly, via the Internet for example. The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of these provisions right from the start and once again prepared to address this matter in committee.

The new provisions proposed in connection with child pornography address two different aspects.

At the present time, the definition of child pornography applies only to material that advocates or counsels illegal sexual activity with children. The reforms proposed in Bill C-20 would expand the existing definition of written child pornography to include any material created for a sexual purpose which predominantly describes prohibited sexual activity with children.

The new subsection 163.1(1) of the Criminal Code would read as follows:

(c) any written material the dominant characteristic of which is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act.

First, it should be pointed out that the possession of pornographic material is a crime punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment.

I am wondering about this new clause. According to the wording of the new provision, any written material describing sexual activity with a person under the age of 18 years is child pornography.

This means that any sexual fantasy involving a minor is a criminal offence and is punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment, because that fantasy was put in writing, even though the person who wrote this material has not shown it to anyone, and even though no child was involved in any way in the creation of such material.

I am concerned about the scope of that provision. The government now wants to criminalize people's thoughts.

Of course, the Department of Justice will argue that these provisions should be interpreted based on the ruling made by the Supreme Court in Sharpe.

Under that ruling, two categories of material should be excluded from the definition of child pornography. The first one includes any written material or visual representation created by the accused alone, and held by the accused alone exclusively for his or her own personal use. The second category includes any visual recording, created by or depicting the accused, provided it does not depict unlawful sexual activity and is held by the accused exclusively for private use.

So, the Department of Justice decided to go against the Supreme Court ruling by not specifically mentioning these exceptions in the Criminal Code.

Not mentioning these specific exceptions will create a legal vacuum that will result in uncertainty in the Criminal Code. This may in turn generate confusion when reading the code. Each person has his own definition, however imprecise, of what is meant by child pornography.

We will be able to see this confusion when witnesses appear before the committee. The members of that committee will have the opportunity to comment on the confusion and ambiguity that will result from letting everyone define child pornography.

While we in the BLoc Quebecois want to make it clear that we do not support in any way such twisted and deviant written material, we wish to point out that the lack of details and specifications in the new provisions of the Criminal Code, in light of the findings of the hon. justices of the Supreme Court, will result in even more confusion in the public.

Now I would like to add my own personal observations concerning the provisions on the defence for possession of child pornography.

At present, subsection 163.1(6) of the Criminal Code, dealing with the defence for possession of child pornography, states that “where the accused is charged with an offence under subsection (2), (3), (4) or (4.1), the court shall find the accused not guilty if the representation or written material that is alleged to constitute child pornography has artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose”.

However, in Sharpe, the Supreme Court interpreted the concept of artistic merit in a way that shocked many people. It gave it a very broad interpretation.

The court has concluded that the words artistic merit should be interpreted as including any expression that may reasonably be viewed as art.

The court added that any objectively established artistic merit, however small, suffices to support the defence and that, as long as artists produce art, they basically have no reason to fear prosecution under subsection 163.1(4).

Based on the provisions proposed in Bill C-20, the Department of Justice replaces this defence with another based on public good. Section 162(6) provides for this type of defence and reads as follows:

(6) No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the acts that are alleged to constitute the offence, or if the material related to those acts that is alleged to contain child pornography, serve the public good and do not extend beyond what serves the public good.

Currently, the possession of video cassettes depicting pornographic acts involving children would be considered a criminal offence. Under what is being proposed, it could be demonstrated that this new defence could be used in a case where a psychiatrist, specialized in treating pedophiles, would certainly be justified in possessing such cassettes for treatment purposes because his possessing them would serve the public good. In this case, the possession of cassettes is more useful than harmful. At first glance, this new defence seems reasonable.

Under the provisions and proposals in Bill C-20, the sentences imposed for offences causing injury to children would be increased. The maximum sentence for sexual exploitation would be doubled from five years to ten. The maximum sentence for child abandonment and failing to provide the necessities of life would increase from two years to five years imprisonment, which is more than double.

The court must also consider the mistreatment of a child during the commission of any offence under the Criminal Code as an aggravating circumstance that could result in a more severe sentence.

Accordingly, the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of the new provisions. It is here to protect children.

In terms of facilitating testimony by child witnesses and victims, the Department claims that the proposed reforms will ensure that participation in the criminal justice system will be less traumatic for the victim or the witness.

Current provisions of the Criminal Code would be expanded in order to allow all witnesses under the age of 18 to benefit from witness assistance in any criminal procedure. This provision would ensure that all witnesses receive this assistance, not only those who are affected by sexual offences, or other specific offences. This assistance includes testimony from behind a screen or through closed-circuit television, or with the assistance of a trusted person who would accompany the young witness.

Current provisions generally require that the Crown establish the need for witness assistance. Given the possibly traumatic experience for young witnesses in the courtroom, the reforms being proposed would recognize the need for assistance.

When it comes to all of the types of witness assistance, the judge retains full discretion to refuse assistance or protection, if it could impede the proper administration of justice. Furthermore, facilities that would allow for the use of screens or closed-circuit television would have to be available in court rooms in order for judges to allow them to be used.

The fundamental rights of the accused are therefore fully respected under the proposed amendments. The reforms would also allow children under the age of 14 to testify if they are able to understand the questions and answer them.

We support these amendments. However, in committee, we will ensure that none of these provisions threaten the rights of accused persons to a full and complete defence.

To conclude, I would like to repeat my support for the principle behind this bill, and for the principle alone. Amendments need to be made and specified. We need to hear from the experts and witnesses who will be invited to appear before committee. Once again, I would like to highlight the importance of the principle of the interests of children in any decision that affects them. This is a fundamental principle that must be safeguarded.

I, like all of my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, believe that our children deserve our immediate and full attention and consideration. Our children must not suffer and must never live in fear of vile abuse.

To close, as I mentioned at the outset of my speech, I am very concerned about all issues that affect children in any way. I believe that it is our duty not only to protect them, but also to give them what they need to succeed and live their lives to the fullest.

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January 27th, 2003 / 5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-20, a bill proposing changes to the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Wild Rose.

The Minister of Justice maintains that these proposed changes will protect children in Canada. The provisions in Bill C-20 are unnecessarily complex and cumbersome. They will not make it easier to prosecute sexual predators, which is supposed to be the goal because that is what Canadians are demanding. They want their children protected.

As a result of recent court decisions and development of Internet technology which brings formerly distant places much closer together, it has become clear that more protection is needed for Canadian children. We need to be able to more easily prosecute those who exploit, abuse or otherwise violate children in Canada.

I cite the infamous Sharpe case. Canadians were appalled by this decision that legitimized literary musings about sexual relations between adults and children. There was much outrage expressed by many people in my constituency of Surrey North surrounding that case. It was the catalyst that caused Canadians to demand that the federal government take measures to protect children.

In Bill C-20 the Liberal government attempts to tackle the controversy surrounding decisions like this. The government proposes to take the existing defences of child pornography, that is, artistic merit, educational, scientific or medical purpose and public good, and reduce them to the single broad defence of public good. This is simply not sufficient. There is no substantial difference between this public good defence and the previous community standards test that was rendered ineffective by the Supreme Court in the 1992 Butler case.

There is no positive benefit in the government's attempt to recycle laws that have already been discredited by the courts. The minister has simply renamed and repackaged the artistic merit defence. Canadians want the defence, regardless of what it is called, scrapped entirely. They do not want adults able to defend the sexual exploitation of children on the basis that there is some kind of public good or artistic merit in the harming of young people.

The Liberals have not done so. They have simply hidden it in a list and labelled them all public good defences which will continue to be available and used by defendants trying to fight child pornography charges. This is not what Canadians want.

The bill does nothing to address the age of consent for sexual activity between children and adults. Canadians have consistently for years demanded that it be raised from 14 years to 16 years.

The bill we are debating merely creates a category of sexual exploitation to protect children between the ages of 14 and 18. This category requires that in determining whether an adult is in a relationship with a young person that is exploitive of that young person, a judge must consider the age difference between the accused and the young person, the evolution of the relationship, and the degree of control or influence by the person over that young person.

The problem is that it is already against the law for a person in a position of authority or with whom a young person between 14 and 18 years of age is in a relationship of dependency to be sexually involved with that young person.

Because the Liberals have failed to prohibit adults having sex with children under the age of 16, police and parents are faced with a continuing risk to children that is not effectively addressed by the bill. Only by raising the age of consent will young people be truly protected under the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Liberals have left a great deal of wiggle room by allowing debates to continue over whether a person is in a relationship with a young person that is exploitive of that young person. This is not what Canadian parents want. It is not the protection young people need in Canada. It is an escape hatch to be used by sexual predators.

The bill increases maximum sentences for child related offences, including sexual offences, failing to provide the necessaries of life, and abandoning a child. Maximum sentences are meaningless if the courts do not impose them, choosing instead to mete out little more than a slap on the wrist with time served in the community.

Canadians need to have the government eliminate statutory release and conditional sentences for sex offenders and mandate minimum sentences in order to deter child predators.

Modern technology has surpassed legislation that governs the use of evidence in Internet child pornography cases. The bill fails to address those shortcomings and amendments are required in order to deal with the child pornography cases effectively and efficiently.

A few short weeks ago, Canadians watched in disbelief as police vented their frustration in trying to work through hundreds of names of people in our country suspected of trafficking in hundreds of thousands of photo images of sexually exploited children. Not only are law enforcement agencies sorely lacking in resources, but they are also woefully bogged down in procedure. They refer to the federal Liberal government's support and co-operation as a nightmare.

If the justice minister were serious about protecting our children, he would provide law enforcement agencies with the resources they need and streamline the process, particularly in the rules governing disclosure. Imagine what even a fraction of the $1 billion wasted on the firearms registry could have done had it been directed to protecting children from sexual predators. This government is failing.

We have the technology to chase down these predators, but there is nothing in the bill about that. On the other hand, given advances in camera technology, the bill does provide some protection for Canadians. The bill creates a new offence of voyeurism and the distribution of voyeuristic material, making it illegal to observe or make a visual recording of a person who should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This is a positive step.

Given the fact that the Liberals have chosen to address advances in camera technology, Canadians are left to wonder why they chose not to do something about the advances in the Internet technology and the trading of images depicting the sexual exploitation of children.

There is not much more to say about this weak and largely ineffective legislation. It is a great disservice to Canadian parents, police and young people vulnerable to sexual predators. The Liberals are missing the target with Bill C-20. It should target those who torture, harm, humiliate, degrade and violently and sexually assault young people in Canada. Instead we have legislation that merely confuses things.

In the end, defence lawyers will make a great deal of money successfully getting their clients off because of this weak and ineffective law that will no doubt be torpedoed through this place without amendment. The bill offers nothing substantive that will benefit children and their families. The government should be ashamed for turning its back on the young people whose innocent faces peer out from the images that document their suffering.

I urge each member of this place, especially members on the government side, if they have not already done so, to spend some time with the seasoned police veterans who are haunted by the disturbing images of this horrible treatment of young people. Just look at the evidence. Spend some time with the police. Spend a night in a police patrol car on the kiddie stroll in many of our larger cities. Talk to the drug addicted teen prostitutes. Spend some time with their families and understand the heartache that is caused by this. Then come back here and make a speech about how this bill will do the job of rescuing and protecting these kids.

Bill C-20 is a disappointment.

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5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have waited a long time for the opportunity to address this particular issue again. Many of us have been addressing it since 1993, including myself. Ten years ago this problem was brought to the attention of the government on a number of occasions. Ten years later there are still no solutions.

Four years ago the Sharpe decision brought about the words artistic merit. It is now four years later and nothing has been done, except we now have a piece of legislation that inserts the words “unless the material can show public good rather than artistic merit”. That is a disgrace. When everybody starts bringing forth claims that there is some public good in what they are doing, it will be a great opportunity for lawyers to pocket money. It will be a real haven for lawyers and it will be at the sake of the children of this country who have suffered either on a personal basis or in the general picture.

Anytime anybody starts using child pornography to the extent it is being used in this country, every child we know, every grandchild or child of people in this room will be affected by the evil work being created out there. We have an opportunity here more than we will ever have in our lives to do something about it, to stamp it out in its entirety. We have to declare that we are no longer willing to tolerate our children or our grandchildren being exposed to this kind of garbage in this country.

Here is our chance. Let us not spend time sending a huge bill like Bill C-20 to committee where days, weeks and probably months will be spent analyzing it. There is nothing to analyze in child pornography. There is no artistic merit in it. There is no public good in it. Let us get rid of it. We can do it. Let us do it tomorrow. What is the holdup?

Since the Sharpe decision, police officers across the country have been spending hour after hour going through items of child pornography confiscated from those who claim to be people. The police have to go through each and every item, every picture, every film, every drawing, every sketch and every story to determine if there is any artistic merit. This will continue because they will now have to go through every item to determine whether there is any public good in it.

In the city of Toronto there are 1.7 million pieces of material that a handful of police officers, perhaps only four or five, have to go through. They receive psychological help from time to time. I can imagine what it does to them when they have to spend hours looking at that kind of filth and garbage to determine if there is any artistic merit and public good in it.

What kind of people do we have in here who would even hesitate for a moment to say the bill has to go to committee and through a process, and maybe a year from now it will be done? More than likely there will be an election and the bill will drop dead and nothing will have happened at all, as usual.

Child pornography is not to be messed with. When it comes to child pornography, there is nothing to discuss with regard to artistic merit or the public good. There is none. At least 90% of Canadians believe that. If members do not believe me, they should go back to their ridings and ask their constituents. They will be told to do what they can to wipe it out.

This is the place where we can do it. Whatever anybody thinks about the Supreme Court, this place is the top court of the country. Members must make up their minds to do it. Let us work together as a group of people with a little bit of common sense. Let us use our brains. We must indicate loud and clear to the country that child pornography must be wiped out. Let us get a national strategy together to help our police forces do it. Let us not make it worse.

Why are we debating to the extent that it could be this or could be that? That is irresponsible work on our part. Stop it now. What a joy it would be to see both sides of the House rise in unison and say that we will do one thing for the children of country, that we will wipe child pornography from the face of the earth and that we will start this in Canada. Why do we not do it now?

I cannot believe that we are hesitating for a moment. We should take that little section out of the bill if we have to, set it on the table and say that it will be dealt with at committee of the whole, everybody in the House. Then we can all stand and be united on saying that for the sake of our children, child pornography is gone. Does anybody have any problems with that?

Then we could address the courts in regard to some things like what happened in October. Listen to this. There was a story in the Calgary Sun about James Paul Wilson who was charged with possession of child pornography, assault and the obstruction of justice. He received a one year suspended sentence. He was in custody for nine months prior to sentencing which was taken into consideration.

In Winnipeg Leonard George Elder was convicted of sending hundreds of pornographic photos of children across the Internet. Last October the Manitoba Court of Appeal overturned a nine month jail sentence and stated that Elder should instead serve a 15 month conditional sentence.

There was an Edmonton Journal story about Leslie Jossy who used his work computer to print out child pornography. He received a one year conditional sentence to be served in the community.

The StarPhoenix in Saskatoon had a story about Kevin Hudec who downloaded hundreds of images over several months depicting sex between adult men and girls aged five to nine. He received a one year conditional sentence which he could serve from home plus probation for a year.

In a story in the Ontario-Quebec regional news of December 2002, Darryl Renton, a southern Ontario police officer from Brantford was found guilty of collecting child pornography. He received an 18 month conditional sentence which included six months of House arrest.

At that same period of time our justice system put farmers in jail. At that same time, we made millions of criminals out of a gun registry that was not working.

We can discuss all these other issues but there is no time for any more discussion. As we sit here, millions of pictures are circulating in the country. There is no deterrent to it. Let us help our police forces and our children and get together as members of the House of Commons and say that as of January 28 there will be no more child pornography and we will make every effort to see it happens. Can we do it? Should we do it? We better believe we should do it.

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5:15 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member from Wild Rose for his passionate debate on behalf of the security and safety of our children, but I would like to ask him a question.

I have a bill that has been around for almost six years. It was first introduced by the former minister of justice and attorney general of Saskatchewan, Mr. Chris Axworthy, when he was a member of parliament. The bill basically talks about child pornography on the Internet.

I want to ask him about one simple aspect of the bill which is fairly straightforward. The bill would ensure that Internet service providers, the people who provide the services, be required to block access to identified portions of the Internet that may carry child pornography. It would also put the onus on the provider of Internet services to ensure that child pornography did not get on their sites.

Does the hon. member agree with that comment or could he elaborate a bit more? I agree with him. We must do all that we can to protect our children.

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5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do agree with that. There are many things that can be done. There are people out there who are in the position to do it and they are called our police force. They want to do it. They do not want their hands tied anymore to restrictions or to whatever requirements there are to appease the courts or the laws. We do not have a justice system. We have a law system. We have a bunch of laws but no justice ever comes out of them.

What is really disgusting is this. The police are begging for a national strategy. Police officers who have looked at these pieces of garbage are asking for help. Pedophiles are not scared in Canada because they know we are not really putting in as much effort as other nations. One police inspector in Toronto said that we were not doing our part and asked for our help so they could do their part. They need the tools and the backing to do it.

Our Solicitor General has just been quoted as saying that their points of view basically are wrong. He insists the feds are really making progress on child porn. It is totally irresponsible to make that statement. The Solicitor General ought to be called onto the carpet for making a comment like that, when it has got completely out of control and snowballed into what it is today. We have been talking about it for 10 years in the House of Commons. Every member who was here in 1993 knows that this topic has always been on the floor at one time or another. Ten years later it is worse, not better.

I appreciate the member's attempt at a private member's bill. Others have attempted private members' bills. Unfortunately we have seen private members' bills passed and never implemented. That is not what is supposed to happen. When we agree something is going to happen, let us do it. By George, let us change it this time. Child pornography will be wiped out and that will be a goal of this Parliament. Let us do it.

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5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know how passionate the member for Wild Rose is about this, but I think that sometimes there is a bit of a disconnect in the eyes of the public to understand what it is we are really dealing with when we are dealing with child pornography and these images.

I know that the hon. member has sat down with the police and seen some of this stuff, as have I and a number of members on the other side of the House. This is not the kind of thing that a lot of people think about, like Mom or Dad taking a picture of junior sitting in a bathtub full of water and soapsuds. Unfortunately that seems to be the image that a lot of people have when we talk about this.

Could the hon. member for Wild Rose elaborate, without getting too graphic, about what it is we are dealing with here, what kinds of images and what this stuff really is.

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5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, in every police department where I have had the chance to view this material and everything that has been brought to me to see, members should use their worst, sickest imagination. Picture a six month old baby being raped. Picture a group of two and three year old young children enjoying themselves around the nudity of some man. His face cannot be seen but the little kids can. What a joy that must be, enjoying his nudeness. It is absolutely sickening.

The police warn people not to look at the pictures if they have weak stomachs. I know the member saw what I saw and that he would agree with me that it is the sickest stuff that could ever exist. It is not a little nude picture. It is not a baby taking a bath. It is the sickest stuff imaginable. If members do not believe me, they should visit their police departments and ask to see what they have confiscated, but they should be prepared for the shock of their lives.

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5:20 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity, on behalf of my two daughters, to contribute in this debate, albeit in a small way, and to do what I can to not only push this government but to push all governments and all legislators around the world to do the very best to eradicate, or at the very least severely minimize, child pornography not only in Canada but around the world.

I am sure you were as shocked, Mr. Speaker, as I and many others were when we heard about the international bust on the child pornography ring and how it used the services of the Internet to exploit fantasies and create what must have been horrible nightmares for those young, unwilling and unsuspecting children.

I would like to bring to the attention of the House a private member's bill which was first introduced in the House years ago by the then member of Parliament for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, Mr. Chris Axworthy. For a while he was the attorney general and justice minister of Saskatchewan but he stepped down from that post. He and various police associations across the country were very supportive of the bill he introduced at that time. Basically the bill, which is now under Bill C-234, is an act to prevent the use of the Internet to distribute pornographic material involving children.

Without going into the bill word for word, I would like to read the summary of the bill and put it on record for all those who are listening:

This enactment provides for the licensing of Internet service providers by the C.R.T.C. on conditions to be set by the Minister of Industry by regulation. It also requires service providers' co-operation to minimize the use of the Internet for the publication or proliferation of child pornography or the facilitation of a sex offence involving a child.

Anyone who uses the Internet to facilitate any of the specified sex offences involving children is guilty of an offence.

Internet service providers may be required to block access to identified portions of the Internet that carry child pornography.

The Minister is authorized to make agreements with provinces to assist in achieving the purposes of the Act. Special powers under search warrants may be prescribed by the Minister to facilitate electronic searches.

In my wildest dreams I do not understand why any legislator in this country, through municipal, provincial or federal obligations, would be against that. However I have had actual Internet service providers call me and condemn me for it. They said that if a bill like this ever saw the light of day they would do everything they could to defeat me in the next election. I say to those Internet service providers, “Bring it on”. They should come to the riding of Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia and tell the people and the children there that they will not live up to their obligations to do everything they can--

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5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I could be wrong but I fail to see a quorum in the House today. I would ask the Speaker to take appropriate action.

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5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I see quorum. The hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore has the floor.

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5:25 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, to carry on with this, I encourage the Internet service providers, instead of using veiled threats, to work with all levels of government and the police forces in order to stop and do everything possible to prevent the use of the Internet for child pornography. That is not going to be easy. Nobody said that it would be. The fact is that now that the Internet is here, which is a great service for people around the world to be able communicate with each other, it can also be used in communication for some evil things. As the hon. member for Wild Rose has said and the member from Surrey said before, we must work with the police officials in our country to do everything we can to minimize the impact on our children, not just in this country but in countries around the world.

Will this Parliament or any parliament around the world be able to successfully eradicate child pornography? Probably not, but we should do everything we can in order to ensure that we try, and we should put the adequate resources in there in order to do it.

I know that in certain countries around the world, where they have devastation and poverty beyond our recognition, some parents, unwillingly or just through plain ignorance or severe lack of education, may sell off their children or use their children in this regard. Those children's pictures are shown on the Internet around the world. They do it for money, which shows that we possibly may do a lot of good in this country down the road, but we are going to have to help those people around the world. We will have to educate them. We will have to discourage them and prevent them from using their own children for sexual exploitation in order to put bread on the table.

We have heard of many cases in countries like Pakistan and India where parents will more or less sell off their children to work in weaving rooms or on looms in order for them to gain a bit of money to bring back to the family. A lot of these young children, especially girls, are sold into prostitution, not only in those countries but literally around the world. That is unacceptable, but we have to ask ourselves why they are doing that. I cannot honestly believe, no matter what culture, what ethnicity, what religion or what morality people have, that anyone who bears a child and cares for that child would honestly want to do that. I may be ignorant about that, but for the life of me I just cannot see them wanting to do that. However, when people are desperate and have nothing they resort to drastic measures.

The real problem is with the people who buy those services, the people who use those children and manipulate those families for the sake of the almighty dollar. They use those children, manipulate them like birds in a cage and exploit them, not only in their own countries but around the world through the Internet. This is reprehensible. It does not just happen in Canada; it happens around the world. We have heard just recently of that international bust of people who have done that.

For the life of me, I do not understand why people feel they need to have some sort of enjoyment or fulfillment or release, for lack of a better word, from looking at children in a pornographic way. It boggles the mind. I may not be the greatest practising Christian in the world but I do believe in God and I know that God would not want his flock to do that, so why do people do it? Is a longer jail sentence the answer? Obviously these people must be severely ill or demented. I could use much stronger language, Mr. Speaker, but you would throw me out, so I will not.

I will try to be as courteous and as kind as I can using parliamentary protocol, but it bothers me greatly that even though my own children are safe, along with those of many of my friends, there are probably children in my own riding who are being exploited in this regard and I would be unaware of it.

I speak to policemen on this subject, not on a regular basis, and I know that my former colleague, Mr. Chris Axworthy, did a tremendous amount of work with police associations across the country when they mounted the campaign in 1995-96 in order to facilitate this type of legislation. It is quite amazing that this bill has been on our books for six to eight years and yet the government chose not to take even any aspect of the bill into its legislation. I can assure members that I will be actively working with my colleagues in order to facilitate this type of bill into the legislation, either through moral persuasion, through the debate in the House of Commons, or through committee or public pressure to try to get the government and my opposition colleagues to look at this type of legislation and enact it into the current Bill C-20. If we can honestly do that, I believe we would go a long way in protecting not only our children in this country but children around the world.

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5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think there is some passion in the speeches today because many of us share the concern about child pornography and pornography in general and also the concern about the inability, it seems, or the unwillingness of governments to deal with it. People continue to cry out for action. As the member has just said, it can sit on the books for years and everybody clucks their tongue and says that somebody should do something, yet they will not do anything. They will not act.

It is almost a shame-faced reaction on the government side. We had a quorum call a minute ago because there were not enough people in here to listen to this. The Liberal members do not want to hear about this. They just wish it was not real. They are not in favour of it, but they wish it was not real so they put their heads in the sand and hope it just goes away.

I sat on the heritage committee. A member from our party on the committee said that it is not just the Internet pornography. There is stuff on our own broadcast system that is so offensive that he said he just wanted to show us a video clip that he took from the CBC. It was from late at night, sure enough, but still, it was so offensive that he was inundated with letters saying that it could not be real that we were going to show this and use government money to rebroadcast it. Members of the committee said that it was not their job as legislators to have to watch it. In fact, they refused. They said, “If you bring it in here we'll walk out of the room because we don't want to see it”. It was not that it was not real; they did not want to deal with it.

I would like to get the member's opinion on a couple of things. We talked about Internet rebroadcasting, but also about broadcasting and rebroadcasting in general. The problem with it is that because of the big time zone changes in the country, broadcasters shy away from dealing with this issue. They say that all they can do is rebroadcast it. They do not pick the time at which it is shown. What happens is that pornography, although it is bad enough that it is shown at midnight, ends up being shown at 8 p.m. in my neck of the woods or vice versa.

I would like the hon. member to comment on that. I do not think that is right. I think we should force not only Internet providers but broadcasters to screen that garbage off the television, certainly during prime time.

The second item is something the hon. member for Wild Rose and I talked about behind the curtain. Maybe what we need to do here is shut this place down for a day and get the 301 people in this place to look for five minutes at the garbage that is actually child pornography. We can see grown, hardened police investigators in tears after having been forced to look at this stuff. Maybe it is time we bumped it up from a theoretical debate to an actual screening, if members think they are man and woman enough to look at it, of what kind of garbage we are actually talking about.

I think that if parliamentarians, who are supposed to set the pace here, had to see this stuff, not that I want to because I think it wrecks one's mind, if parliamentarians were forced to look at it for a minute or two, as the member for Wild Rose said, we could take out the part of the bill that deals with child pornography and it would be strengthened, ratified, passed and given to the police forces of the country in a minute. In a day, we would be done with it.

Finally, I will conclude by asking that the member speak on the defence of artistic merit. When the Sharpe decision came down, we would have thought that seasoned and hardened police officers who have to deal with this smut day in and day would be toughened up, but they said there was stuff in there that was so offensive they could hardly look at it. Yet the decision of the courts is that if one can even show a smidgen of artistic value somehow that makes it okay.

That does not make it okay. This is one of those cases where we say that when the rights of the children come up against the rights of a pornographer, then the rights of the children trump the rights of the pornographer every single time and we should make sure of it. It is not a matter of hoping for the best, of saying that it is the law of averages and, hey, we lose a few kids, but what the heck.

It is not like that. There are times when one says, when it comes up against these other rights, it is time to take action. The discussion should take place quickly in the House. We should move to strengthen the hands of the courts and strengthen the hands of the police officers. All parliamentarians should stand together to say that enough is enough. There has been enough chatter and now is the time to move.

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5:40 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the first point of my hon. colleague's question has to deal strictly with the CRTC. It should have the teeth and the guts to ensure that the broadcasters and rebroadcasts of pornography are under severe and strict restrictions, if that is the proper way to say it. It should not shy away from it.

I believe that all 301 of us and those in the other place should be put in a closed room to watch the disgusting material. If that does not move us quickly to enact legislation in order to protect our children, then nothing else will. I agree with the member.

When it comes to artistic merit, I for one have great difficulty understanding that. I simply do not know how someone could call child pornography art . It is beyond me. Those people are sick and need to be dealt with. We should debate right now how to deal with it. We should debate it and deal with it.

I am sure I speak for all of us when I say that as a father of two children, if anything ever happened to my children in this regard, I would be speaking even more passionately than I am now. Fortunately, they have never gone through that, but there are children in this country who have. We need to protect the children.

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5:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, we talk about all these acts as though they do not exist. We have no tolerance for drunk driving. We have no tolerance for bullying in our school system and everywhere else. We do not tolerate these acts against our children, but for some reason or another we send the message to the courts to let people off free and easy.

I ask the member, should we not basically tell the courts as well that we do not tolerate these exploitive acts against our children?