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.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Before that happens I have to say that it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 39(5), to inform the House that the matter of the failure of the minister to respond to the following questions on the Order Paper is deemed referred to several standing committees of the House as follows. I must say that I have withdrawn from the list those raised by the government House leader in his earlier question of privilege, which I have taken under advisement. Otherwise a similar ruling would have followed. If I find there is no question of privilege, I presume I will be making a similar decision with respect to those questions.

Question No. 72, standing in the name of the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River, is referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Question No. 85, standing in the name of the hon. member for St. Albert, is referred to the Standing Committee of Public Accounts.

Question No. 91, standing in the name of the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, is referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

January 27th, 2003 / 3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford had a submission he wished to make on a question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve before our Christmas break. I am therefore pleased to hear from the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford at this time before we embark on a study of orders of the day.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to address a question of privilege brought up by the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who rose on his question suggesting that I prematurely issued an unauthorized disclosure of the minority report of the Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs.

I have been accused of divulging privileged information from the parliamentary Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs, and to say the least, this is a serious charge. As vice-chairman of that committee and a former House officer, I take this charge very seriously as an affront to my own integrity. Notwithstanding any whining about the positions that anyone takes on the drug issue today, I want to state very clearly my position on his question of privilege.

There is no doubt that I have grave concerns about the government's approach to drugs, harm reduction and marijuana. However, my talking to the press does not in the least constitute any particular divulging of a report.

This is not a new charge in the House. In fact, as House leader of the official opposition I had a great deal of concern expressed in the House about leaked reports. In fact, I found in many cases, which I will disclose in a moment, that there is a bigger concern not from individual members but from ministers themselves.

I might add, however, that this is not a leaked report. My comments were likely to do with the great disgust over the government's ill-planned move toward the marijuana situation and harm reduction. My concerns and that of the nation on this issue over a move to adopt a European style of life in Canada were expressed in most Canadian newspapers. If I am guilty of such a breach in confidentiality, I will be most interested to see how it is dealt with in view of the fact that confidentiality has been breached in the House time and time again.

I have not seen any documents or any substantiation of this, by the way, so I am standing in the House defending my own position and not knowing what the actual accusations have been or how tangible they were. I can assure the House that if I feel there may have been cause to believe that I have somehow breached confidentiality by speaking out against drugs, by talking to the press about the government's misled direction of harm reduction and about encouraging young people to smoke marijuana, then I intend to bring a motion in the House this week to ensure that I be brought before the procedure and House affairs committee for investigation. I would be happy to do that.

If I myself table such a motion, I expect it to be honoured and accepted. I also expect to be able to bring counsel to that meeting and, indeed, request witnesses on my behalf, such as reporters, advocates of my position on drugs, previous ministers who have breached confidentiality, the government House leader and others to provide witness to clear up the accusations that are being made.

First off, it is up to the special committee to consider this matter, not the Speaker. However, since it has been raised in the House I do have a comment or two. I would like to explain the circumstances and precedents involved in this contempt. First with regard to precedents, apart from incorrectly raising this matter in the House instead of committee, many of the member's references are quite outdated and, I would argue, have been replaced with more current ones. The usual reference to contempt is the one from Erskine May, which describes contempt as:

--any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.

I am not sure at this point whether I should go through all of the cases or not. First, I need to know what exactly I was purported to have said. Second, I would like the time to look at that and bring it back into the House. As I have said, I have the integrity inasmuch as if I feel that I have breached something I would be the first one to bring it before the procedure and House affairs committee.

Mr. Speaker, I want to reserve a lot of my comments for that instance, when we bring it back in here and you decide whether or not I have in fact breached some sort of security. I do not want to take any more of the House's time away from the important issue we are dealing with today in order to discuss any more of the possible references that may be used unless it is necessary to use them. All I can say is that when there are accusations against one's integrity in the House, I think the accusers should have the integrity to properly use the best points of reference possible, give the person accused the proof that they have, and in particular give members an opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not they have breached some form of integrity in the House.

Mr. Speaker, I leave it in your hands to decide whether or not you are willing to give me some kind of substantive documentation to show that I have in fact breached anything in the House. I would like to then return here and tell you what I think of that. I can tell you what I think already, but it would be more appropriate to wait for the real stuff to come in.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, on the same point, I have to reply that the question of privilege of the member for Hochelaga--Maisonneuve is out of order for the following reasons.

On page 128 of Marleau and Montpetit, it is stated that:

Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will only hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings upon presentation of a report from the committee which directly deals with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual Member.

Page 128 cites precedents from Hansard from: June 30, 1987; December 9, 1987; April 2, 1990; November 28, 1990; June 19, 1991; November 7, 1991; May 18, 1995; September 16, 1996; and December 9, 1997.

On page 129 of Marleau and Montpetit, the matter of leaking the contents of a report and the necessity for the committee to report to the House is referred to. Page 129 cites as examples: April 28, 1987; May 14, 1987; and December 18, 1987.

Mr. Speaker, I believe you should rule that this matter should be dropped as it is out of order.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I want to thank the hon. member for Langley--Abbotsford and the hon. member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast for their submissions on this point. Hon. members will recall that when the issue was first raised, the hon. member for Langley--Abbotsford was away. He could not be here and so we deliberately left the matter for him to have an opportunity to reply.

I believe there is another hon. member who was also named who is also away and who may also wish to reply. I expect that will happen within the next day or so. If that is the case, that will put the Chair in the position of having heard all the people involved in the original complaint. I will then make a ruling on it. It would have been premature to make a ruling absent submissions, I thought, from at least the hon. members whose reputations had been affected by the words I heard from the hon. member for Hochelaga--Maisonneuve when he made his initial statements.

We will examine the matter again and I will get back to the House with a ruling in due course. I thank both hon. members for their submissions.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Langley--Abbotsford.

I rise today to participate in this most important debate. I am confident that members on both the government and opposition sides of the House agree that nothing is as important in our lives as our children and our grandchildren and that therefore Bill C-20, which deals with child protection and child pornography, is of utmost importance in our minds.

Unfortunately, the bill, like all justice bills produced by this government, falls far short of the expectations of the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition. It fails to adequately protect our children from sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect. That, in my opinion, is totally frightening and unacceptable. I say that not only as a member of the opposition but also as a father of two young children.

As pointed out earlier today by my colleague from Provencher, Bill C-20 simply changes the defence for the possession of child pornography. Under this legislation, individuals arrested for the possession of child pornography may use what the government considers a narrower defence, that being the defence of within “the public good” as opposed to defending the possession of child pornography for reasons of artistic merit, educational, scientific or medical reasons, and the public good. In R v. Sharpe, the Supreme Court of Canada found that public good could have been interpreted to be “necessary or advantageous to the pursuit of science, literature, or art, or other objects of general interest”.

Quite obviously, for all intents and purposes the defence of public good can and will be widely interpreted to still include artistic merit. Therefore, nothing really changes from the current status except that our courts will be further inundated with cases. Horrific amounts of time will be wasted while defence lawyers argue what does and does not constitute the public good. We all can recognize that this will become a lawyer's dream as they argue back and forth as to whether or not this constitutes the public good.

Bill C-20 does seek to increase maximum sentences for child related offences. It does not, however, impose any minimum sentence, which effectively means that pedophiles can and will continue to receive fines and conditional sentences, measures that do not in my opinion ensure the protection of society or the protection of children. They do not ensure the good that we would like to see come out of such a bill.

Bill C-20 was introduced on December 5, 2002. Less than two weeks later, when the issue of child pornography was very prevalent in the media, a Brantford police officer convicted for possession of child pornography on his home computer was given a conditional sentence of 18 months, including only 6 months of house arrest.

Similarly, a Winnipeg man who was caught with 258 pictures of naked children, some as young as six years old, posing and participating in explicit sexual activity, was given absolutely no jail time. In fact, he was not even given a conditional sentence. This child predator was simply fined for his crime against hundreds of innocent children. Although he was ordered not to use the Internet or a computer while at home, he was still permitted to use the computer while he was at work. He was placed on three months' probation and ordered not to have any contact with children under the age of 18 unless an adult was present, a restriction that nowadays would be hard for much overworked probation officers to diligently enforce given their workload, which we hear about from the media.

The provincial court judge was rather proud of the hefty fine that she placed on this individual. She noted that in other cases where persons had pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography, offenders were given lesser fines for both the possession and the wilful distribution of these despicable pictures.

Nothing within Bill C-20 prevents judges from handing out conditional sentences or fines to offenders convicted of possessing or distributing child pornography. In my opinion and in the opinion of the Canadian Alliance, those who possess and seek to possess child pornography are every bit as guilty of committing a crime against a child as those who take the pictures. They should therefore be sentenced to a minimum term in prison. Forget the maximum that the judges and the courts very seldom impose; they should be sentenced to a minimum term in prison for committing the offence of aiding and abetting the abuse, the torture and/or the sexual exploitation of children.

We need a law that makes sure that people do not go near child pornography. Child pornography is unacceptable. It would seem that is the type of law the government is unwilling or unable to bring forward.

Unfortunately I hold out little hope that the government will ever create that type of offence or see fit to ensure that anyone and everyone who preys on innocent children spends time incarcerated. Incarcerating those who possess and distribute child pornography not only helps protect other children from being victimized, it acts as a deterrent to those who are seeking to sexually exploit children.

Since 1995 the Canadian Alliance has been asking the government to restrict the use of conditional sentences for non-violent offenders. We have ample reason to be concerned about the release of violent offenders, particularly rapists, on to our streets, reason such as the safety of our children, the safety of our sons and our daughters.

I have often stood in the House and stated that sex offenders have the highest reoffending rate and therefore pose a very serious risk to the safety and lives of families across this nation. Despite our repeated requests, despite the requests that have been echoed by the Canadian Police Association, the Minister of Justice refuses to limit conditional sentences. Therefore clause 3 of Bill C-20 states that any person who, for a sexual purpose touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object any part of the body of a person under the age of 14 years is, under section 151(b) of the Criminal Code, guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a term in prison for a term not exceeding 18 months. In other words, anyone convicted of sexual interference with a person under the age of 14 can and will be given a conditional sentence.

If the government were interested in truly protecting our children, it would have drafted the bill to have all sexual interference considered an indictable offence and subject to a minimum term in prison.

The Canadian Police Association and the official opposition have asked for restriction on the use of conditional sentences. In fact it was one of the recommendations or resolutions of the Canadian Police Association in 2002. The government has ignored that request.

It was interesting to note that in a desperate attempt to save grace in the face of daily news stories regarding the $1 billion boondoggle of the gun registry, the justice minister proudly paraded the position of the Canadian Police Association on the firearms registry. In fact the justice minister disseminated to all members of Parliament and we all received a copy of a document produced by the CPA regarding the registry.

I challenge the Minister of Justice to distribute to all members of Parliament the resolutions or recommendations of the Canadian Police Association regarding conditional sentences. I challenge him to distribute all of the resolutions of the Canadian Police Association, such as the one calling for an end to club fed; an end to housing dangerous and violent offenders in prison and many others; the resolution regarding the elimination of faint hope; the creation of a viable sex offender registry that will work; the creation of a cyber tip hotline. I challenge the justice minister to explain why he has ignored the Canadian Police Association on so many issues yet he parades the association around when it suits him.

The police complained two weeks ago that they needed more resources to deal with child pornography, especially after foreign investigators tipped them to hundreds of users in this country.

Commenting on the international investigation, a Toronto police detective sergeant said that the Canadian police are hamstrung. It is time that the federal government changed it.

Our request to the government that is in power is first to recognize that what it is bringing in Bill C-20 is not adequate. It is not going to adequately help the police. It is not going to adequately protect the children. We need a bill that will do that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has raised some interesting issues.

I wonder if he would care to comment on whether or not he is aware of any examples that officials or others may have given him as to what would constitute public good. It seems to be a concept which has been labelled as the sole defence available. At this point I am still unaware of a matter in which child pornography would be permissible in the public good. I would like to see an example or two as to what that really means.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, again we recognize in the Regina v Sharpe case that Canadians were appalled at the court when on certain points it suggested that the pornography, the sexually explicit pictures that were in Mr. Sharpe's possession, held some artistic merit.

I do not believe that any other issue has brought more letters or more petitions to my office and probably to all members on all sides of the House than the decision by the court suggesting that some of what Mr. Sharpe possessed had artistic value and artistic merit.

If changing and taking away the artistic merit and including public good, but saying now the courts will debate and discuss to see if there is an educational purpose that may constitute public good, it may be allowed. If there is science that through some of these pictures it may constitute public good, it may be allowed.

The member is absolutely correct. I heard him say earlier that there is no public good in child pornography. We are all appalled at individuals and the pornography itself that depicts children in that method.

I am at the point that I do not know if the government has the ability to build any type of legislation that will protect children as long as the courts grasp for certain parts of the charter that would guarantee things and parts of their argument based on public good. I do not understand and I would thank the minister for bringing forward what the court would deem public good.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, before the member came to the House of Commons he may not be aware that we made a number of changes in our legislation to protect children.

One of the areas in which we made a change was to prohibit the damaging of children's sexual organs and female genital mutilation. As the vice-chair of the justice committee at the time, we had to view slides which depicted what happens to children when that occurs to them and those who have accidents. We had to observe children's private parts to understand what the issue was at hand. That is an example of where what could be for some people a stimulus and is pornography has a public good. In fact, I think if the member was being honest about what is in the bill, the member would recognize that the--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

I take that back.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The member is walking a very fine line and taking it back sounds very good. I would like the member to ask her question.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for the earlier word. What I should have said was if they were being more complete, they would have said it does not extend beyond the public good. It is actually a very strict definition that is being proposed by the minister. Does the member understand that?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member amazes me in that if she is suggesting that a doctor's office examination room displays pictures dealing with circumcision or other things it may be deemed pornographic, but if those pictures are circulated in a way that would incite someone using it as pornography, then it is wrong. If those pictures are taken in a doctor's office, that may not be pornographic. It is common sense.

Let me tell a little story. A young guy ran into the house with a pop bottle lid and said, “Mom, can you fill this pop bottle lid with water?” She did and he went out. She asked, “Why do you need the water?” He said, “I need to put out a fire”. She looked outside and saw the whole barn going up in smoke. He had a little pop bottle lid of water that he was going to put on the fire.

That is what the bill does. There is a tidbit of good, but the bill does not go far enough. We need to protect our children. We do not need small measures that are not going to adequately do it and that is what the justice minister has brought forward.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-20 because it is legislation in which I have been intimately involved during my complete career in politics. Today I still spend a lot of time at it.

In my opinion the country has a very serious moral and ethical crisis on its hands. There are issues which come forward in our court system today where by and large obscure judges, wherever they are, make decisions that are case precedent and are used right across the country. Those decisions tend more and more to go to the libertarian type of viewpoint. Many Canadians are very concerned where this moral and ethical viewpoint is going.

I can only cite a few of them now. There were original decisions on pornography that it would be okay to possess some but not to produce it. How on earth can some obscure judge appreciate how one could possess some pornography but not produce it? It does not even make sense for these guys to be deliberating on it and making these decisions.

The age of sexual consent is another one of these considerations. It is not in the bill but it should be. The age of sexual consent still remains at too low. I have been involved in cases, and I still am, where we have to remove very young people, 14 and 15 year olds, from crack houses. Police officers basically say that they cannot do much about it because they are probably consenting to stay with 30 and 40 year olds. These 30 and 40 year olds use them for prostitution, for their own sexual activities and to sell drugs, yet they are allowed to be in those houses.

In one particular case in which I was involved, the welfare people said to send her down and they would give her some money. That is a lot of damned good. We have to raise the age of sexual consent. That is a basic fundamental premise of our need to look after younger people today but we are not doing that.

There are other issues that I do not want to raise here because the particular exploitive issue of children is more important. However I see moral and ethical standards issues when the government does not challenge things like the definition of marriage, which comes from some obscure judge.

We have the issue of conditional sentences. I do not know why the government did not come forward and say that it would forbid conditional sentences to be used in the case of sex crimes, whether exploitive of children or others. I am not a lawyer but I get involved in these cases where individuals are given conditional sentences. They are told to say they are sorry and to go home. They do not spend a damned day in jail for the serious sex crimes they have undertaken. There is something wrong with that philosophy. The case of exploitive sex crimes against children should be prominent in the legislation, not missing.

In this legislation the government fails. The proposal to increase the maximum sentence is not the problem. The problem is that when we go into the courtrooms today for sex, drug and related crimes, which some of them are, the judges are working at too low a level.

There are only two things wrong with the justice system and it is judges and lawyers. The lawyers are looking for the lowest common denominator as a defence lawyer for their clients. Many times crown prosecutors are ill-prepared or not prepared by way of experience and the judge goes for the lowest common denominator as well. In other words, the problem with this legislation is the minimum sentence is too low, not the maximum.

These are common sense problems today. They are problems that can be overcome quite easily if it was not for this polarization of political views in the country. The government would be well advised to spend some time sitting down with the opposition members, not in polarized committees, and trying to get the understanding of the people who they represent, not just the people who the Liberals represent.

What is the answer? What we have today is a declining moral and ethical standard I believe of a government and a declining moral and ethical standard within the courtrooms. All the legislation that we produce in this place will not replace what is going on in those courtrooms and in the political backrooms of the country.

What parents are looking for is some rationale, some punishment and some rehabilitation. The rehabilitation while one is in prison is another problem again which has to be linked with this kind of legislation.

Over the break I found child pornography on computers in Kingston prison. The prison said that I did not find it. Very technically it was right. What the inmates were doing on government computers and on their own computers was taking adult pornography pictures and overlaying them with children's faces. Rather than standing up and saying that it was a serious problem, that the rehabilitation thing was not working that well and that there were sex offenders getting their jollies from this kind of thing, the prison system said that was not real child pornography and that they were just overlaying pictures.

I recently finished a serious study on pornography in prisons. I am talking about trying to relate the need for better rehabilitation in the legislation and some way to force the prison system to grow up and be more responsible.

There are numerous prisons in Canada that are not only stocking Playboy and other things in their prison libraries. The inmates also have access to any kind of subscriptions they want for pornography.

How does the government reconcile tabling legislation such as this when the sex offender who is already in the prison has full 100% access to subscriptions to pornography? How do the prisons reconcile this? This stuff here is only half-baked measures. It has to go back to the courtroom. It has to go into the prisons. It has to refer to rehabilitative programs. This is so basic, so common and so natural.

What is the answer to this? I would suggest that the government take back the legislation and go back into discussions with opposition members who obviously relate to different people in Canada than the government does. There has to be something. The government cannot simply be getting its information from everybody. Virtually everyone I talk to makes constant reference to the kinds of problems I just described: the moral and the ethical crisis in our courtrooms; the inability to rehabilitate sex offenders; and the inability to address child pornography and its definition.

I am frustrated every time I come into this place these days. The government tables legislation and gets all its PR marks from telling the media that it is doing a great job, but in effect it does not have the infrastructure, the base of the problem resolved. Until it does, the legislation will not go anywhere.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to members from all parties debate Bill C-20. I have the same concerns as the hon. member who just spoke. I have listened to members on the government side and members of the Conservative Party say that they have many great concerns with regard to this legislation. However they are willing to support the legislation in order to get it into committee to try to make some amendments. I have heard this excuse used time and time again in the House, yet legislation comes out of committee basically the same way it goes into committee and it has been a waste of time.

Does the member feel that by supporting this piece of legislation now, as some members have stated, then try to amend it in committee sends the wrong type of information to the public, which is paying close attention to this?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the problem with supporting government legislation is that this happens. Our pollsters say that the Liberals are predictable and I would say that is very accurate. I have been here for at least 10 years. Most legislation that has come through the House has addressed in part some very serious issues. It has addressed in part the solution and in other parts, where the Liberals will not go, it can actually destroy the legislation in effect. This half and half legislation is where our country is having problems these days. It makes great work in the courtrooms for judges and lawyers, but it does nothing for the victims of crime.

One has to look at our value system and our principles. If legislation comes through the House of Commons which has serious flaws, like not addressing the age of sexual consent and allowing sex offenders to get away with conditional sentences, then we have to stand up and say that until the legislation is where we want it, we cannot agree with it.

I really dislike the rhetoric that often comes from the other side that if we defeat or vote against a piece of legislation we do not want it. In most cases there are some serious flaws in the legislation and things that are wanting in the legislation. That is when people stand up and say that until all of it is in there, they cannot vote for it. That is where I stand.

There are serious things missing from this legislation, as much as I would like to see it passed. It is just the same as the intended legislation for the national sex offender registry, which I wrote initially. In that legislation, which came before the House of Commons, were two very serious flaws.

I stand here and say we want it, but we do not want it half-baked. Therein lies the problem. Those who stand on principle should vote against it and those who stand in between middle and mediocre, as the Liberals do in the political spectrum, can vote for it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has talked about this issue a number of times. First, could he quickly comment on why the Criminal Code right now does not define pornography but rather relies on the definition of obscenity, which has not been changed in many years?

Second, in his work on the subject matter, could he tell us whether he has participated or has some information with regard to the concerns that Canadians have about court made law, that is Supreme Court of Canada versus Parliament in terms of who makes the laws in this land. I know that I have had that input from people who feel the Supreme Court has not been--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Langley--Abbotsford.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, if I am out of time I will address the last question, because judge made law is a particular pet peeve of mine.

The law of this nation ought to be made in this place, not in the courtrooms of our country. Time and time again we see obscure judges changing the laws and it is wrong. Pornography fits into that, the definition of marriage, the right of prisoners to vote and on it goes. One reason we do not see lobbyists that much any more in our offices is because they do not have to go to the backbench Liberals or to the people on the opposition side. They go as witnesses to court cases. One problem in the country is there are too many judge made laws. Parliament has to take back its right to legislate and to make laws.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-20.

Before I go any further I wish to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the Secretary of State for Children and Youth who I know has been working very diligently in this area.

I would like to inform the member for Okanagan—Shuswap that the chair of the environment committee earlier today tabled a bill from that committee that had 79 amendments. Committees do in fact amend legislation on a regular basis. To say anything else to the Canadian public is a misrepresentation of what in fact takes place in this parliamentary process. That bill could be further amended in third reading in the House. I encourage all members to support Bill C-20 and get it into committee where more fulsome testimony can be heard.

Throughout this discussion I hope members will be very cautious in how they present the opposing viewpoints. It was very disheartening to me, as somebody who has worked on this issue and who cares very deeply about the children of this country and other countries where some of this pornography is made, that because we do not support their perspective somehow we do not care about children. That is absolutely inaccurate. I care very deeply about children and I have been working on this issue since I came to Parliament in 1993.

The language that we use is also important. I know the headlines in our local newspaper in the case of the Internet pornography that came out of Texas had "kiddie porn bust". Kiddie porn is an attempt to make it cute and acceptable. It is not cute or acceptable. It is child exploitation. We need to be very careful in the language we use and the headlines which refer to this kind of exploitation. All members of the media need to take their responsibility very seriously.

It is important to note that through the work of CIDA we work to reduce the exploitation of children in other parts of the world. The House passed legislation that makes it illegal to travel to another country to exploit a child. That was very important legislation. We were only the 12th country in the world to pass that bill. It will make a difference for children internationally.

We also need to be very cognizant of the fact that the people who work with children on the streets of Toronto, Vancouver and any other big city in this country tell us that those pornographic materials that exploit children are being produced right here in Canada. We must do more to enhance child protection. We must ensure that we have strict laws that prohibit the production and possession of this material as the bill does. We have to do more to educate the public about what it means when they consume this kind of material. We have to turn off the people who think this is acceptable. Ultimately, laws are only there when people have done something wrong. I prefer that we turned it off in the first place.

I was very pleased to hear in the minister's announcement of Bill C-20 that he reiterated the government's financial support for Cybertip.ca and for a tip line, 1-866-658-9022, where people can call and report incidents when they think people are exploiting children on the Internet or elsewhere. We can work toward ensuring people understand what this means for the world's children.

Bill C-20 is a comprehensive set of protections and reforms to the Criminal Code. It is responding to decisions that have been made in the courts and making sure that it is Parliament that is making the laws and not anybody else. It is our job to accept or reject the decisions that are made in the courtrooms across the country. We all play a part in making sure that Canadians have the best laws in place.

The minister has introduced this comprehensive package of reforms that improve the protection for children and vulnerable persons. It fulfills key commitments that we made in the throne speech of 2002. Particularly, we will enhance the protection of children from sexual exploitation and enhance the measures that we have already taken to create new offences that target criminals who use the Internet to lure and exploit children.

New technologies like the Internet are making the exploitation of children a borderless crime and so the government is working internationally to try to reduce this exploitation.

The important things that have been debated today are the changes to the artistic merit and public good sections of the bill. I will touch briefly on that. However it must be clear that the proposed reforms would expand the existing definition of written child pornography to include material that is created for a sexual purpose and predominantly describes prohibited sexual activity with children. The current definition in our Criminal Code only applies to material that advocates or counsels sexual activity with children. This is an expansion of the current provisions and will do more to make sure the law achieves what we all want it to.

The other very important area is the new category of sexual exploitation to protect young Canadians between the ages of 14 and 18. The courts will now have to consider whether a relationship is exploitative based on its nature and circumstances, including any difference of age, the evolution of the relationship and the degree of control or influence exercised over the young person. It will really be up to the courts to look at the conduct and behaviour of the accused rather than the issue of consent, and that is an important issue for all Canadians.

We have heard other members say that all we need to do is raise the age of sexual consent to 16. Oh, really. Then we would somehow say that it is not appropriate for a 14 year old and a 15 year old to kiss each other. That is sexual activity. Nobody wants to criminalize that kind of behaviour. In what the minister has done, we are making sure that kind of activity can continue and that we will protect 16 year olds and 17 year olds as well, which the members opposite would not do by moving the age of consent to 16. They would not be protecting 16 year olds and 17 year olds.

It is important that we are also enhancing, doubling in fact, the maximum penalty for sexual exploitation. Contrary to what some people have said in the House during debate, doubling the maximum penalities sends a strong signal to the courts that this is a very serious issue and it can be more effective than any minimum sentence in deterring this kind of activity as much as people actually think about how they will be prosecuted.

The maximum penalty for abandonment of a child or failure to provide the necessities of life to a child will be more than doubled, from two years to five years. That is another important area where we can protect our children.

An important area that has not been touched on at all is the new offence of voyeurism. We are faced with a situation right across the world now where people are becoming involved in webcam activity. People, young and old, are having all their daily activities monitored on the web. It is a very bizarre kind of thing. I do not know why people consume it or produce it but people are doing it. We must be very careful to ensure that there is no secret viewing or recording of people for sexual purposes, or breaching people's privacies. Those are important areas to protect particularly young people who may not see the seriousness of giving up their privacy by participating in this kind of activity.

It has been a very interesting debate in another important area. I heard members of Parliament talk about how they want to do more to protect our children. I say to them that I do not understand why they oppose gun control which protects our children and our society. I would ask them why they want to criminalize activity and treat children as adults when it comes to the Young Offenders Act but they do not want to treat children as children in this particular case and work to protect them in the same ways.

We have to be very careful to be consistent in our messages. The government believes that people under the age of 18 deserve some enhanced protection, which is what the minister has done with the bill.

I would encourage all members of the House to support the bill, to have further debate in committee and to work toward enhancing the education around protecting our children.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure of being in a constituency with the member some years back regarding gun registration, something we oppose. We oppose the registration of guns, not gun control. I do not think she ever got that right, but one day she will understand it is the registry. To make the statement that the wonderful registry program is saving lives is irresponsible and totally untrue. To tie that in with this bill is absolutely ridiculous.

What I would like to hear from the member more than anything else, and what I know 90% of the people of Canada want to hear, is that child pornography will be wiped out entirely. There is no such thing as public good in child pornography. There is no such thing as artistic merit.

Why will the member not stand on her feet and say that we will pull that section out of the bill, deal with it immediately and send word to our children across this nation that we are determined to protect them by fighting that one issue, instead of including it in an omnibus bill that will take months, if not years, to go through a committee and be dealt with?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, how long it takes in committee would be up to the opposition members as well. I would encourage them to look at other ways. It is not about protecting children in one way only. Several things need to be done to protect children.

The bill does in fact remove artistic merit as a defence. It very specifically narrows the possession of pictures that depict genitalia and other things of children to only when it is for the public good, such as where a doctor needs to take pictures of children to either educate others or to produce materials, such as two 12 year olds holding hands or kissing, for a sex education class.