Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Wild Rose ought to know that the member for Mississauga South had to conduct an interview this afternoon on yet another controversial issue, that being the issue of stem cells.
We are dealing with a number of very tough and substantive issues, issues which no doubt will be current not only today but certainly down the road.
I want to thank the opposition for bringing this motion forward. It is not very often we find that members on both sides of the House can agree to an initiative. The wording of the motion itself is not only commendable but indeed quite supportable.
While I say this, there have been some steps that have been taken by the government. Some would treat them as baby steps but nevertheless they are important steps on the issue of child pornography, which probably is the most serious issue confronting this nation today. We have been able to move ahead with Bill C-20 and Bill C-23 and pass Bill C-15, which among other things moved a step closer to ensuring that Internet service providers would have to retain data. Those are some of the measures that have been taken.
For the sake of the debate, I would like to point out that this is not a new issue. I applaud the member for bringing this motion forward and speaking to it very proudly. Not too long ago it was that member who led a committee of several members of Parliament to attend what was supposed to be a one hour session on the epidemic of child pornography and the scourge that exists not only around the world but also here in Canada.
The shocking pictures referred to a little earlier were the same pictures that I had seen when I had the opportunity of working with Detective Sergeant Paul Gillespie and Detective Sergeant Bob Matthews of the OPP. I know they are in very good hands with the work now of Detective Sergeant Bruce Smollett and Detective Sergeant Paul Gillespie.
A number of initiatives must come of this motion. It is clear that there is sufficient support for the motion. I would be very surprised that there would be any attempt to water down what is otherwise a motion that must serve as a constant reminder of the most serious problem that confronts our nation.
The hon. member for Wild Rose will remember that we put together an issues and options paper. In the few minutes that have been given to me, I want to go through several of the items that I think would be cause for where we go after the motion is passed. Hopefully there will be time left in our parliamentary agenda and calendar to fulfill those.
We said that the age of consent should be raised from 14 to 16, while maintaining the close in age exemption. This would amend section 150 to substitute 16 for 14. We would also retain the age of 18 as a consent for trust relationships.
We dealt with the issue of artistic merit. Section 163.1(6) as currently expressed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sharpe decision exempts child pornography clearly harmful to children as the subject of criminal prosecution.
Our solution at the time, and I believe we had support from all parties, was to eliminate the defence of artistic merit and that the definition of child pornography be included as part of the hate crimes section 319.
In my view, that would be the way in which we try to address this very serious issue.
I think where the government has certainly come a long way is to deal with section 163, to apply a community standards test similar to the Butler case. I will not get into the specifics of that.
Another issue, which would not be news to some colleagues, was the requirement that written child pornography be found to advocate or counsel illegal sexual activity with children permits the exclusion of child pornography that is harmful to children from being the subject of criminal prosecution.
It was felt that if we added “a prominent characteristic of which is the description of sexual activity between a person under the age of 18 and an adult, the primary purpose of which is for sexual gratification of an adult or which poses a risk of harm to a child”, that would serve the test.
We know that in the same decision on Sharpe, the Supreme Court of Canada permitted a number of exemptions. I believe that some of them are downright wrong and must be reviewed by Parliament.
The “private recordings of unlawful sexual activity privately held for personal use” invented by the Supreme Court of Canada permits subsequent exploitation of persons recorded who no longer consent to the use and, given the disparity of age permissible, permits ongoing exploitation of children under 18, or 16, by adults.
Our view on this is to restrict such exceptions to recordings between persons under 18, not engaged in explicit sexual activity involving disclosure, clearly indicating both knowledge and consent that the activity is being recorded, not kept in a manner where it is capable of distribution to others, and the possession is for the exclusive personal of the person in possession of it.
Another issue is one that we also tackled that evening--many of these things were by consent--the expressive material exemption, again an exemption to what is otherwise unlawfully expressed child pornography and invented again by the Supreme Court of Canada, is capable of being used to permit material harmful to children to be created and possessed, including animated, computer generated, morphed images, mixed and edited videos, and audio recordings mixed with the above. We felt that it was important to eliminate the personally possessed expressive material defence whenever that should pose a harm to children. I note that the government has done this in some of its legislation.
Perhaps the most controversial but nevertheless most important issue from a police resource perspective is the Stinchcombe decision. The Supreme Court of Canada some time ago imposed rules of disclosure that necessitate police providing copies of every image seized from an offender, frequently in the tens of thousands and more as a result of the Internet and the nature of sexual deviance, thus needlessly depleting resources, delaying prosecutions and potentially disseminating material harmful to children. It is our view that a simple way to achieve this would be similar to how it is done with drugs, and that is simply to get a sample and admit that as evidence, and that could be written in as opposed to going through every single issue.
Another issue is the whole area of lawful access, and I know that the only people who will buzz to that are obviously people in the police community and those in the justice department, who I hope will be listening to this. It is clear that Canada is losing the battle with evolving technologies. We simply do not have the ability when people are using various forms of encryption, new technologies and disposable telephones, you name it. The government needs to proceed with binding and effective legislation that allows police modern and up to date information.
Also, and I should point out that this is a critical point, if we want to beat the child pornographers and stop the 40% of people who see this material and go on to offend against and exploit children, as is currently the convention in this country, then the way in which we do that, I would submit very honestly, is to ensure that if an Internet service provider or, for this case, a company that is involved in the use of telephone lines, should provide the information to lawful and local authorities, it should be based on warrant. They should not be charged the going rates. This is not about making money. This is about protecting children. It is time that the telephone companies and those involved in communications get on board. We do need that.
I know that only a few minutes on this very important question will be provided to me. I do want to issue the challenge again to all colleagues to hear the voices of those who believe that we do need to amend the definition of primary designated offence and provide for the taking of DNA samples. This should, in my view, of course be retroactive. That may be impossible to do, but we must start that as soon as possible.
Sentences imposed for crimes involving child pornography are disproportionately low for the harm they cause and the risks posed to children. In my view, and indeed I think in the view of the majority in the House, we should create a mandatory minimum penalty for second or subsequent offences under section 163.1. That would of course allow as well the opportunity to create a mandatory consecutive penalty akin to section 82.1 for firearms, for conviction of an offence under section 163 or committed in conjunction with another sexual crime, or committed while on parole for sexual crime against a child under the same section.
I believe that some of these bills and some of the ideas that we have talked about for some time would go a long way. I cannot think of a better opportunity we would have for all of us at some stage to understand that if we are to take seriously the protection and the safeguarding of this country's most precious constituency, the laws that we have in this country are of no force or effect or in fact of no meaning if we cannot protect those who eventually will assume the very burden of making this a greater nation.
Young people in the tens of thousands from around the world are only faces. We cannot put names to those faces. We understand the concerns that have been raised by those who say we need to have a balance, but the balance must not come at the expense of rewriting our charter. We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but I ask the House, whose rights are we to protect and whose freedoms are we to safeguard? It is very clear to all in the House and to any ordinary individual that the benefit of the doubt must always inure to those who are the most vulnerable and least in a position to defend themselves.
The exploitation we are talking about is all the more important given the advancements in technology, the ability within a nanosecond to transmit a face around the world. The Internet, Interpol and a number of agencies have been involved with trying to make sure that a document about a certain activity and a behaviour that is occurring in Canada is not simply sent to the country or sent to a few agencies around our great nation, but that in fact those police forces and those agencies involved would have the resources to be able to understand, to disseminate and to make sure that we protect children.
That is the bottom line. I thank the House for the motion.