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House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pornography.

Topics

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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October 28th, 2003 / 4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, in Bill C-20 the government proposes public good as a defence. It is such a vague term that I think it could take years for that to be defined. Experts at committee have said that the problem with putting a very vague defence into the law is that it does not serve as a deterrent and that we are going to have the courts clogged up with defendants saying that they are not guilty because they think there is a chance of public good. Would the member care to comment on that?

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4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, yes, I would be glad to comment on that because I believe the defence of public good simply is another way of camouflaging and replacing the defence of artistic merit. It is just as nebulous.

I believe there is a better way to do it. If we want some kind of protection for those who may be using this kind of material, for example, the police in their investigations, the psychologists and the psychiatrists in their treatment procedures and the teachers, perhaps, we could in fact list those categories of people who, in the performance of their duties, would allowed to do that. That would be better than simply leaving something nebulous like for community good.

It does not take a whole lot of thinking to figure out there is a better way to tighten it up, and I think it needs to be tightened up very much.

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4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Regina for a very fine speech today.

One concern, particularly those of us in the opposition benches have, is that very often we propose these very good motions, motions that really the government should be introducing if it were really sensing how Canadians were feeling about important issues. Oftentimes the government will vote for our motions because it believes it is bringing in legislation that includes the motion already or it simply thinks it is politically expedient to vote for them because there is an election coming or for whatever reason. We get near unanimous agreement in the House on these motions and then they simply sit and the government never does anything about them.

I think of my good friend from Prince George—Bulkley Valley who fought for years to bring in tougher laws for drunk drivers.

I think of my good friend from Langley—Abbotsford who brought in the national sex offenders registry. It passed unanimously in this House and it took the government ages to simply get on with it.

Does the hon. member have any advice for the government as to what it should do now, if indeed we have unanimous consent on this motion at the end of the day?

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think the government can figure out better than we can how to speed things up. We see it doing it all the time with its stuff.

The smoke and mirrors that goes on is the first thing that needs to go. The government needs to have willingness to recognize some weaknesses in Bill C-20, fix it immediately and get it on the table in a way that will actually provide the kind of protection for which this motion asks. The fastest way I know is to put the right stuff in the bill, which is already in the process, and get it moving.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will just introduce my remarks by thanking my partner for sharing his time with me. On a scale of one to ten, what chance does he think this has of going through.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

One, Mr. Speaker.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my friend from the other part of Saskatchewan splitting his time with me.

This is kind of a sad day. I have been sitting on House duty since 10 a.m. listening to the discussions on something that seems to me should not take a whole lot of discussion. We should have been able to put this through before morning coffee. We have been talking about it six ways to Sunday. We have been comparing it to Bill C-20. Surely we could just get this done.

Why in the world do we need to discuss perhaps the merits of Bill C-20, the merits of artistic merit, the merits of what the public good is when we see that sexual predators are allowed to do the stuff they do because they think it is all right? This is absurd.

We talk about the artistic merit of something. We could go to an art gallery. It seems to me that if we checked the heart rate and the heartbeat alone of people who are looking at art on the wall versus this kind of junk, child pornography, that ought to be enough to do it.

Some of these discussions today make me think we are talking about some volumes in the Library of Parliament. There has been so much sort of academic chat about this filth, that does not deserve to be talked about, as if it is academic stuff. Let us put it where it belongs. It is filth. It is disgusting. It is disgraceful.

I do not think we should be wasting a whole day in the House of Commons on it quite frankly. It is a sad thing that it has had to come to that.

Why can we not just pass the motion and say absolutely. However, that someone is allowed to go through the courts like Robin Sharpe and say that is just for his good, at whose expense? It is always the child who is the victim.

I can hardly believe that we would need to get into a discussion about this, about whether it is really okay or whether it is not, whether it will get distributed or whether it will get sold. Why do we need to waste time on this? I bet the people who are sitting in here can hardly believe it. Yet the minister today said Bill C-20 would look after all that.

He could turn this political and say that the opposition is just creating havoc or making a fuss. My friend from Wild Rose has been talking about this year after year after. Yet the minister does not need to worry about us. Let him listen to the Toronto Chief of Police for starts or the Canadian Bar Association. These people are not politicians. They are operating on the front lines and seeing this filth day after day.

When Paul Gillespie showed members of Parliament the kind of stuff that police officers had to look at every day, it was sickening. Somehow we can just treat this as though it is academic volumes. Shame on this House of Commons. Shame on the member over there who said earlier that with public good the cops could not have shown us that kind of stuff, that they would have been charged with it. There is some kind of logic.

Forgive me, I am blond, but I am not that dumb that they would be charged with the public good. They need this in there for defence, for showing members of Parliament how despicable this stuff is. No, they do not need any defence for public good. They need to show us that. If every member of Parliament watched this for about 45 seconds, we would not have wasted a day of debate here.

We can get this thing under control right now. When the police say that it will not curb it and when the bar association says it will not solve the problem, that is good enough for me frankly. Praise God, I do not need to look at that stuff every day.

I tell the members this. With stepchildren and with the many foster children whom I raised, I am just sick to death to see these people. These are people who these young kids know, who they are related to but most of all who they trust. These people abuse trust day after day.

Before I came here I taught school for 10 years. I understand the position of being an adult and working with children in a position of trust. I see this trust being blown apart by these people every single time they commit these wrong criminal acts. Let us put it right where it belongs. This stuff is filth. There is no way anyone can convince the victims that this has artistic merit. One just has to look at the kids who are being subjected to this. Is this somehow in the public good? I do not think they would say that.

Let us solve this today. Let the government go ahead with Bill C-20. It can trump whatever it likes. I do not care who gets credit for this. All I know is that these kids, who are innocent victims, have any number of pathetic implications that go on for the rest of their lives: sexual dysfunctions, addictions and psychological problems.

I do not know how we can stand here and have this little discussion saying that maybe Bill C-20 will be the answer if the cops and the lawyers say that it is not the answer and we should not worry about what the politicians on the other side say. We should take their word for it and do something about it.

For goodness sake, let us make sure that we call a spade a spade. It is filth. It is disgusting. These people collect it like stamps or baseball cards or something like that. It is wrong. It is criminal. It is evil. We should stand up in this place and say that it is enough already. Let us move forward with this tonight. Let us not talk about it like it is some artistic work.

I do not understand some modern art. Sometimes I stand and look at it and wonder what it is. However I would recognize every single piece of smut that is child pornography for what it is. It is wrong. It is disgusting. It is evil. Let us stand together in the House of Commons as 301 people and do something rather than just yap, yap, yap about it. Let us get this job done.

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4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, if anyone in the House had followed me on four different occasions when I dealt with children as young as in grade two who have been maimed for the rest of their lives because of what my colleague calls pure filth, and followed these people through the course of their lives, they would have seen that one committed suicide and three others had real problems in their lives. Let me say that there is no defence. My colleague very proudly said that we should remove all defences. There is nothing in the bill that will really stop what is going on.

I say to my colleague from Edmonton North that we have enough courage. Does she think the government has enough courage to stand with us and say that there is zero tolerance for this material?

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4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the four people the member mentioned are only four out of millions who have had great difficulty somehow adjusting. When life is great, it is hard enough, is it not, when we are talking about relationships and families and colleagues working together? Let us not pit the government against opposition. Let us just take the wall right out from along the middle here and say that we are people sitting in a circle who need to do something about this.

This is the fourth Parliament that I have sat in, Mr. Speaker, as it has been yours. What gets done? We are ready to leave because we basically have two prime ministers now and we are all more worried about that. I say that we should forget that and get on with the job of passing the motion and not just trumping ourselves for the great job we did. As my colleagues have mentioned, lots of things have been passed in the House, but let us get it done.

Let us make sure that the police say that it was not only passed but enacted so that our kids are safe, whether it is on the Internet or the physical or sexual abuse that they are going through, all these horrifying things. I ask the government to forget that it is the government. I ask all opposition members to forget they are the opposition. Let us enact this and move it ahead.

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4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member was right in her assessment. There probably is no one in this place who would disagree that the possession and existence of child pornography means that a child must have been abused.

I want to ask the member to comment on our social values and the hypocrisy of our social values in the context that as long as a person has not reached his or her 19th birthday, he or she is considered to be a child. We are abhorred by the degrading representation of a child. However one day later, when a person reaches his or her 19th birthday, all of a sudden there is no longer a problem.

Would the member like to comment on our social condition in Canada with regard to degrading depictions of human beings?

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4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I only wish that everything could be afforded to people who are turning 19. He talks about becoming an adult at age 19, where a person is protected one day and the next he or she is not.

How about 14? Let us talk about people who are 14 years old. I taught junior high for 10 years. Fourteen is a very difficult age. We have all been there. It was not a pack of laughs when we were there and it is even that much more difficult now.

When I see potlickers preying on these young people, not at 19 when hopefully we know a few more things than we did at 14, why can we not stand up and say that other countries have it at 16 why can we not? The fact that the government continues to think that 14 is okay is very frightening.

We need to pick an age somewhere but when the hon. member says 19 in terms of adulthood, let us look at 14 and social values and how important it is to say that 14 is not old enough to determine sexual consent. Let us make it 16 and then we will worry about the 19 year olds after that.

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4:45 p.m.

York West Ontario

Liberal

Judy Sgro LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this issue today and, specifically, to follow my colleague on the other side of the House from Edmonton North. It will be a sad day when we no longer have her in the House standing up and arguing issues that matter to all of us.

The motion on the Order Paper today is about how we can better protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation, including child pornography. Protection of our children from such exploitation is a continuing priority for the government as reflected in last year's Speech from the Throne, and I think we will see that reflected in the vote that will happen in approximately one hour from now.

The motion on the table today calls upon the government to protect children from further sexual exploitation by immediately eliminating all defences for the possession of child pornography which allow for the exploitation of children. When we look at some of the things that people use as a defence for what they call art and various other things that they try to get away with and say that it is not sexual exploitation, any of us who have actually looked at some of the stuff know clearly that it is. The sooner we eliminate any portending avenue of defence the better.

Child pornography is an issue that concerns all Canadians. The making of a child pornographic image is in fact the making of a permanent record of the sexual exploitation of a child being depicted in that image. That same child is further exploited with every subsequent distribution and viewing of that awful image.

Child pornography in all its forms harms children and all segments of Canadian society by portraying children as sexual objects.

Today's motion therefore speaks to an issue that is a priority for both the government and for Canadians, and it is long overdue.

As the Minister of Justice has already stated, Bill C-20, which he introduced in December 2002, proposes child pornography reforms consistent with today's motion. This just brings it along a little faster. Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code, which is the protection of children and other vulnerable persons, and the Canada Evidence Act, proposes a broad range of criminal law reforms that seek to better protect children against abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation, including child pornography.

The opposition's motion today would strengthen Bill C-20 and help move it in the direction in which I think we all want it to go. Bill C-20 proposes strengthening reforms to ensure that the maximum penalties for offences against children better reflect the serious nature of offending against children. Bill C-20 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.

The bill proposes two child pornography reforms that are consistent with the motion today and which respond in a very direct and meaningful way to issues highlighted by the March 2002 case involving Robin Sharpe. In that case, as many members know, Robin Sharpe was convicted of possession of photographic images of child pornography but acquitted of possession for the purpose of distribution or sale of written stories describing child sexual abuse on the grounds that these stories did not meet the current definition of written child pornography. I am glad I was not involved in that case because I certainly would not have agreed with that decision.

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 unlawful sexual activity with a young person under the age of 18. Bill C-20 would broaden this definition to 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. Significantly, this proposed motion recognizes the risk of harm that such material can pose to society by portraying children, as a class, as objects for sexual exploitation.

Bill C-20 also proposes to narrow the availability of the existing defences for child pornography. The Criminal Code currently provides two defences: one for material that has so-called artistic merit, or serves an educational, scientific or medicinal purpose; and another for material that serves the public good but does not go beyond what serves the public good. I think that is an area that is still up for much debate and discussion.

Bill C-20 proposes to merge these two defences into a single public good defence and in doing so would introduce an important new second step in the analysis of when a defence to a child pornography offence would be available for all child pornographic materials and acts.

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, then the court must consider a second level of analysis: does the act or material go beyond what serves the so-called public good.

Stated in another way, the second test asks whether the risk of harm that such an act or material poses to society outweighs any potential benefit. If the risk of harm exceeds the public good, for example,--because it allows for the exploitation of children as condemned by today's motion--then no defence would be available or should be available.

Today's motion addresses an important issue and calls upon the government to act immediately. Bill C-20 is currently being reviewed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Hon. members can give immediate effect to this motion by supporting Bill C-20 at the justice committee, getting it into the House, and ensuring swift passage.

I wish to congratulate the opposition for moving this agenda forward and assisting the government, and ensuring the safety of our children.

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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for participating in the debate and for her remarks.

In fact, I would like to thank all members who spoke on this particular motion today. I especially want to thank the member for Edmonton North when she put the fire into the spirit about this critical issue that needs to be addressed.

We had the Minister of Industry in the justice portfolio for a while. The present Minister of Health was there for a while and now this minister has been there for a while. I find it amazing that in 10 years this had not been seriously looked at, and even before that. If I were the Minister of Justice, I would be aware of what is out there. I would walk into the House and make an announcement that today we are getting rid of this filth and evilness that is happening to our children. I cannot believe it is taking forever and ever.

It has been said over and over that Bill C-20 must be fixed if it is going to do the job of eliminating child pornography from the face of our country. I am sure the member would agree that it should be gone. Who needs that kind of junk hanging around? We can do it.

I am going to ask the member, is she prepared--and I know this may pass unanimously and that would be great--to join me and other colleagues in the House to dog this justice minister until it is done? I do not want her to just say yes to that and then let it sit like so many other motions. Let us dog him until it is done. Will she help me do that?

If worse comes to worse,--in the wisdom of the people who developed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and put in a clause that says notwithstanding--if we come to a point where we cannot seem to accomplish anything else unless we use that clause, is she prepared to do that as a bottom line? Will she follow-through on these issues?

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4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question.

Certainly, dogging the minister in order to get a piece of legislation as important as this through is something that we should all be doing.

The work has been going on in the justice committee for some time. Members who have an interest here, as we all should, will continue to monitor this to ensure, on behalf of all of our children and Canadians, that we get this legislation through and we tighten up whatever areas that still need to be tightened.

Frankly, if we are doing our jobs and bringing in legislation, I would think that we would not need notwithstanding this and notwithstanding that. We have an opportunity right now to ensure this legislation meets the requirements and is airtight.

Part of the problem is that it is easy when we are just talking. There are many things I would like to do, but when reality sets in we deal with a whole pack of lawyers and we have to have legislation that is error proof. Often, it seems to water down the very intent that we are trying to achieve.

We must stand back and ensure that it will stand up in the courts. What we are trying to achieve today must be airtight so that we will not end up with some challenge going to the courts. We do not want legislation thrown out that will protect our children and achieve the intent that we want.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her excellent remarks.

The hon. member touched upon something which is bothering Canadians very much. The hon. member made reference to making it airtight so it is approved by the courts.

It seems to me that Parliament is the supreme court in this land. It seems to me that we represent all the people in this land. We should be concentrating on pleasing all the people, not only the courts.

I have a real problem that in the last 20 years we are always trying to do something to please the courts. I want the parliamentary secretary to address the question, why not try to please the people first?

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day, people have rights in this country. There is always the right of appeal and that is where the danger comes.

Let us ensure that we bring in legislation that achieves what we want and can go before a court. Sure enough, there will be people out there who think differently than those of us in this room right now. They will want to appeal this because it violates something somewhere down the line. In the meantime, the legislation is put on hold until it goes on for years while our children continue to be exploited and not protected.

Let us ensure that we are doing the legislation right. Some day the hon. member may end up on this side of the House and he will find out that it is easy to talk. However, the government must ensure that what is put down in legislation is done right. It cannot only be reflective of how we might feel from an emotional perspective.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question for the parliamentary secretary.

Would the member be willing to help some of us lobby the justice minister to include raising the age of consent in Bill C-20? The age of consent is not in the bill. Why?

Raising the age of consent is something that 90% of Canadians want to see happen immediately. Will she help us get that done? The Liberals have voted against that in the past. I am assuming they will quit doing that.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a whole lot of reasons in and around the issue of age of consent.

I have not sat on the committee. I have not been part of the ongoing work on this particular bill. I know it has been raised. The member can ask us on a personal basis what we might like and we might have one view. There are often other reasons as to why it is that way.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Just do it. It is not difficult.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

It is not as simple as someone wanting it or someone else not wanting it. No doubt there is some reason that it is where it is and Liberal members are maintaining it where it is.

Certainly, those are issues that matter and have been thought through. The Liberals have worked very carefully to ensure that Bill C-20 and the legislation is as tight as it can be to protect the children.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, allowing any defence of child pornography to stand in law sends a message that child porn and child abuse is sometimes all right.

Does the parliamentary secretary think that the government could send a stronger message more reflective of Canadian values by eliminating all defences for exploitive possession of child pornography?

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5 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ensure that we do everything humanly possibly to stamp it out completely.

When we are doing legislation, we must ensure that it achieves the goal that we want it to. Whatever we have been doing, we will continue to do. I think if we can put some more emphasis on it, that would even be better.

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5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are addressing a very difficult subject this afternoon, but it is a very important one. I would like to congratulate my colleague from Wild Rose who has a passion for this issue. He has been the one leading the charge in the House of Commons and in our caucus. He wants to see the government do something to protect our children.

We have heard discussions today about Bill C-20. The hon. member for York West said that members on that side of the House have worked hard to make Bill C-20 as tight as possible in order to protect children. However, we have some real problems with the efforts that the government side has made and with the justice minister's defence of the glaring loopholes in Bill C-20.

I live on Vancouver Island and represent 114,000 constituents. Robin Sharpe was in our area in Vancouver, 35 kilometres across the strait from Nanaimo. Judges in British Columbia refused to prosecute cases of child pornography for some months because of the constitutionality of the artistic merit defence in the John Robin Sharpe case.

The outrage in our community was palpable. People in my community, who I am sure are not that different from most Canadians, felt a sense of outrage that someone would justify the most vile depictions of sexual activity with children as being some form of artistic merit. People found it incomprehensible that these vile acts would go unchallenged by our courts. For months to follow, no cases of child pornography were prosecuted because of the glaring loophole of artistic merit in our law.

Bill C-20, which is supposed to protect our children, simply takes the artistic merit defence and replaces it with something the public was not familiar with, something called public good. This was done because the public was sensitized to artistic merit and was outraged by that term.

It is not good enough to simply have smoke and mirrors. It is not good enough when we are talking about protecting our children from abuse that will scar them for life. With counselling and with help, they may overcome these horrors and may live successfully. Many have, thank God, been able to overcome the horrors of abuse as children. Many carry those scars for life and many, sadly, carry them into their relationships in the future.

The consequences of seeing our children being abused costs society greatly. We on this side of the House are very concerned about it. I know members on the other side have genuine hearts of compassion and are concerned about this issue as well.

Unfortunately, we have not seen a response from the executive branch of government giving law enforcement the teeth that are needed to address this vile and degrading aspect of abuse that happens in our society.

Representatives of the Toronto police department came to the House a year or so ago. The member for Wild Rose was there as well as a number of our members. These representatives were apologetic for the material they had to present. Even their toughened officers that are trained in enforcement in criminal matters had a hard time dealing with the content of what is available today in the trafficking of pornography and the vile images of children being abused.

They apologized in advance and told us that some of us may have a hard time relating to the subject material. Many members had to leave the room as the presentation started because it was the kind of thing normal people do not want to imagine. The activities that are going on today and things that are being distributed throughout our society are so vile that the average citizen is really not aware of how evil they really are. These police officers were crying out to us as members of Parliament to do something.

With the volume of material they had to go through, these seasoned officers sometimes had to excuse themselves from the file. Sadly, some of them even had to take leave because they were so disturbed after spending hours going through that kind of stuff in order to build a case to see those people prosecuted.

On this side of the House we do not believe that a public good defence is good enough. We do not believe there should be any defence for feeding on this kind of vile material.

There is an ancient proverb, and one which I think is reliable, that as long as this world remains, seed time will follow harvest and harvest will follow seed time. I believe that principle to be a very sound one. A farmer might plant oats and get partway through the season and decide he should have planted wheat because it has a better price. He cannot just change in mid-season; he has to wait for that crop to come in.

I am concerned as to where this crop that is being sown in society is taking us, and it will bring a crop. We need to do some crop eradication here. This is not the kind of thing that leads to a healthy society. It does not lead to healthy individuals.

The people who feed on this kind of vile material will act on it eventually. It is not good enough to think it is for their personal use and it keeps them from acting something out. People who feed on this kind of thing will bring a crop, sadly on the people on whom they act out their vile intentions.

The public good defence is simply not good enough. It is not good enough for Canadian society. It is not good enough for our children. It should be stricken down. It should be stricken from the law as a defence for child pornography.

There are other concerns. The government is touting that it has toughened things up because it has increased the maximum penalties for criminals who are involved in this type of activity. I do not know that Canadians can continue to be misled by this toughening up because the courts hardly ever impose maximum sentences. What is the point of having maximum sentences if the courts never impose them?

That is fundamentally misleading. It gives an impression that we are actually toughening things up, that we are doing something to protect society from perpetrators of this type of evil but we really are not. When we look at the implementation, many of the sentences are conditional sentences served at home, in spite of the tough maximum sentences that appear to be there. There are minimum sentences and many of them turn out to be simply conditional sentences. That is not good enough.

All of us probably know people who have been through situations of abuse. I know some personally. I know the tragedy it causes in their lives and the difficulty they have, sometimes for many years, in recovering.

In my riding I have had quite a response over time to this issue. I have presented numerous petitions in the House. At least two of them had over 1,000 signatures. I have had a lot of letters from constituents.

Hilda Higgs of Lantzville wrote that she is appalled that someone would see anything artistic when it comes to child pornography. Members opposite would say that we do not have an artistic merit defence any more, but we do have the public good defence which amounts to the same argument for the lawyers.

Gerald Hall of Lantzville wrote that the minds of our children are too precious to allow misguided individuals like Mr. Sharpe to overturn perfectly common sense laws that are in place to protect society.

Marilyn Burrows of Port Alberni wrote expressing her concern that the decision would set a dangerous precedent for our children.

I do not believe that the concerns of these constituents have been adequately met.

Dr. Maureen Keane of Qualicum Beach wrote and asked that the age of consent be raised and that the artistic merit defence be removed. Dr. Keane raised a point about the age of consent. I know other members have addressed it as well. We have one of the lowest ages of consent in developed countries at age 14.

We feel that for an adult to subject a girl or a boy of that age to enticement, perhaps with money, perhaps with goods, perhaps with lifestyle benefits, is not good enough. The age of consent should be raised. There are other jurisdictions that have dealt with this issue, such as the U.K., Australia and most U.S. states, which have a close in age exemption. We are not talking about teenagers that might be involved, whether we approve of that or not. We are talking about adults who abuse children, to make the point clear.

The point about the age of consent is one which I think has to be recognized. There are many serious concerns about children being abused. It is time for the House to take action.

Madam Speaker, I should have mentioned at the beginning that I was sharing my time with the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby.

It is a serious issue. I hope all members of the House will want to take action on it.

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5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the member could comment on the recurring theme that we have heard today.

We heard of all the technical merits of getting on with the job and the limits of Bill C-20. There seems to be something deeper here about the ability of the Liberal government to manage social control legislation and the deeper philosophical malaise and almost fear to tread into that kind of moral code.

The Criminal Code itself is a grand piece of work which in essence is moral legislation. We are legislating morality when we apply the Criminal Code. The Liberal ideology seems to fall short when we get into this kind of social policy. It seems to be the fad in the political air that we are going to deal with the democratic deficit but Liberals seem to go all over the map when we try to deal with the ethical deficit. We heard that today in question period for example.

Could the member comment on the deeper philosophical inadequacy of Liberal ideology that is reflected time and again when it comes to this kind of social policy and social standards?