Mr. Speaker, I fully concur with the last speaker in that there is no more important issue for Parliament to address at this moment than this bill and particularly within this bill, the issue of the protection of our children from exploitation.
Throughout my parliamentary career I have tried to concentrate on children's issues and family issues for one reason, which is that I believe Parliament must be the voice for those who have no voice. In our society children do not have a voice that can influence their futures when they are dependent children.
Bill C-20 caught my attention because of the issue of pornography, but in fairness Bill C-20 has a number of provisions which I think are useful. This is the beginning of the debate at second reading. We will have preliminary discussions about what we see in the bill, the concepts, et cetera. As the previous speaker noted, this is an opportunity to define the ballpark in which we have some concerns that should be examined more closely.
That examination is going to happen in committee. Notwithstanding the character of the committee, I understand that the justice committee has worked very hard. It has done some very good work on behalf of Canadians to vet the very important questions that have been raised. I see this as an opportunity for members who are not part of the justice committee specifically to rise in this place to share the views of their constituents on key issues, whether they be exploitation, abuse or the issue of pornography.
This is the time to raise the bar to the level that should be addressed by the justice committee in doing its work. This is the time to raise the questions that need to be addressed. This is the time for us to have an influence as to the direction of this review. There will be many opportunities after this, but the more we can put some focus on this, the better.
For that reason I am rising to share what I would think are not only the views of myself and my constituents but the views of the vast majority of Canadians. The existence of child pornography in any form whatsoever is an abuse of children and it must be stopped, period. I could not say it more clearly.
I was concerned that this bill had some fuzziness to it. There was this new concept which I am not very familiar with called public good. I made inquiries of people from a number of backgrounds to give me examples. I need examples as a lay parliamentarian to understand what constitutes public good. Even among the people I spoke with, I got various opinions as to what the understanding was.
My understanding is that we cannot yet find the proper defence to the whole issue of artistic merit which is flowing from the Sharpe decision and which is still harbouring the problems within the judicial system for Parliament and for Canadians. We cannot seem to put a stake in the heart of artistic merit. People who argue or feel that possession of materials depicting pornography relating to children somehow has any merit whatsoever are very troubled people who need help.
That is a societal view. I always thought that the Supreme Court of Canada should not be a body that is there to make law or to interpret the law in a way which makes new law, but rather to apply the laws of Canada. I always thought that the Parliament of Canada was the highest court of the land. Yet time and time again this place has been very consistent, other than perhaps the NDP members who for some odd reason, want to balance the interests of artistic merit. I do not know where the NDP is coming from, but if it wants to support those who possess pornography, let us make sure the public knows that because it is not the public that I know about.
A motion will play a part of this. It is important that parliamentarians raise the rhetoric, raise the emotion, get Canadians engaged and make sure they understand. If Canadians do not understand the issue, they will be concerned that we have not done our jobs. I do not want the issue to continue to go around in circles.
In the materials provided to members of parliament, Bill C-20 will strengthen child pornography provisions. With regard to artistic merit, it does acknowledge that it will only narrow and not fully address child pornography. This is clearly an area that raises my interest in the debate at second reading. It will also create a new category of sexual exploitation. It will increase maximum sentences in certain areas, facilitate the testimony of children and also introduce the new offence of voyeurism.
Those are good and positive things. I think they will earn the support of the House, subject to proper review.
It still comes down to the fundamental issue within this omnibus bill. A lay person cannot read the bill and understand what is going on. The bill does not flow from paragraph to paragraph. There is a preamble and then it states that a certain section of the Criminal Code will be replaced by another section, et cetera. It is plugging holes and replacing or adding things. I printed a copy of the Criminal Code from the Internet. It is about six inches of paper. This is a very difficult bill for parliamentarians who are not fully engaged in analyzing the bill and asking questions.
This is why it is so important for parliamentarians to make sure in terms of highest principles and macro views and our reflections on some of the principles that the bill touches on that there can be no misinterpretation of the will of Parliament to address child pornography, exploitation, abuse, neglect and everything else.
I pulled out some of my old speaking notes from 1999 and there is something that moved me quite a bit. I was a member of the health committee. Health officials told me at the time that about 75% of the money spent on health care in Canada was remedial spending. Remedial spending is spending after there is a problem. Only 25% was spent on prevention. Those figures concerned me because Health Canada also said it was not sustainable.
There was another aspect which had to do with children. It implanted very deep in my heart a position in my parliamentary career for children. There was a statement made by an eminent child psychologist and researcher. His research had shown that back in 1999 in Canada, 25% of our children enter adult life with significant emotional, behavioural, academic or social problems. The monetary and social costs are so enormous that investing in children is an imperative, not an option.
I cannot believe there is anybody in this place who would not agree that investing in our children, protecting our children and being the voice of children in Canada is anything but our responsibility. We have to embrace this passion and let Canadians know.
We have to also understand that it will not be acceptable to have soft or partial solutions. As the courts get into court-made law rather than applying the laws of Canada and rather than reflecting the social and moral values of Canada, we need to take a stand. Public good will not make it. I cannot say to my constituents that it is not child pornography unless it can be demonstrated that it serves the public good. That is a non-starter. I say to justice officials and the minister that it is a non-starter. Parliamentarians have to say that time and time again. Let us deal with this.
These are issues I want the justice committee to look at. I want the committee to make sure when Canadians are told the language that they will not balk and ask questions. Public good as a concept raises more questions than it provides answers. This is wrong. The legislation should be addressing the issues. There is no issue that is more important to address at this time. We have been going around in circles on this issue for years.
There is no artistic merit in abusing children. There is no artistic merit in depicting children in horrendous ways. There is no question in my mind that Canadians abhor child pornography. Those who perpetrate it, who possess it, who produce it and who distribute it are problems in our society.
The Supreme Court of Canada made a decision on abortion. It did not say that children do not exist prior to birth. It decided that it would put the rights of the mother ahead of the rights of the child. This is an example of where the courts have not only tried to balance, but in fact have put the rights of one party ahead of the rights of another party. If the courts can do that, surely we can put the rights of children ahead of the rights of those who feel they have to demonstrate artistic merit by exploiting children.
I do not want to argue about what artistic merit there may be. In my view the answer is clear.
It is clear; for me, it is clear.
This is an issue that is clear for all Canadians.
I want the courts to know how Parliament feels. I want Canadians to know how Parliament feels. I encourage members to rise in their places and say what is in their hearts and to tell the House what their constituents have said to them about this issue. I do not believe there is any disagreement on these issues.
I want to comment on a couple of other issues for the justice chair. I know he has been following the debate.
I do not understand why the Criminal Code does not define pornography. I submitted a private member's motion a number of years ago to replace the definition of obscenity, which is in the Criminal Code, with pornography.
It is troubling to me that once people reach the age of consent, once they become adults, all the rules and all the concerns that we express with regard to the exploitation of children get thrown out the door and that same type of degradation and exploitation of human beings no longer is a problem. In our society, a terrible crossroads occurs when the values we hold with regard to children are not the values we hold for men and women.
We need to reflect very seriously on the social and moral values of our country. Parliamentarians have to be looked to for setting the tone and the example. We need to make sure that the legislation we deal with is put through a filter that reflects those social, moral and family values.
We cannot have it both ways. We are weak on obscenity with regard to adults and we want to be champions with regard to children. I am not sure whether our case is strengthened by having two sets of rules in terms of the degradation of human beings and the exploitation of women, children and anybody else who is incapable of having a voice for themselves.
These are serious issues which will be addressed in committee. I hope we can talk seriously about what happens with the notwithstanding clause. We have to start talking about this. I understand that section has been used rarely, two or three times, in very rare and obscure circumstances. If parliamentarians were to consult with their constituents and Canadians at large and they were to bring back their message Canadians would say that they could not think of another issue on which they would want the notwithstanding clause to be invoked than the protection of children. If it meant protecting children from exploitation, abuse and neglect, Canadians would say it was an appropriate use. It is certainly to be respected.
We need to discuss these things. People cannot stand out there all by themselves trying to whistle in the forest with nobody to hear them. This is not a forest. Everybody is listening. Now is the time to raise our voices, to express our views and to do what we can to protect the children of Canada.