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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

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October 28th, 2003 / 10:45 a.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on a subject the government holds to be fundamental, that is, ensuring that we, as a society, can provide all the protection our young people deserve against people who commit the hideous crime of child pornography. It is a crime that has no place in Canadian society. And when I look at our relationships with the G-8 countries, I can say it is a crime that has no place in the world.

I am looking at the motion put forward by our colleagues in the Canadian Alliance. Essentially, this motion asks the government to eliminate all possible defences for possession of child pornography, which allow for the exploitation of children.

The basic motivation behind this motion is the desire to protect our children from all forms of sexual exploitation. I believe, when I look at all the parties and all the hon. members of this House, that each one of us has the same desire and that is that we want to take whatever action is possible to make sure that we can provide young Canadians with this kind of protection.

As I said before, this objective is at the heart of the government's ongoing commitment to protecting children from exploitation and all forms of mistreatment. This commitment was recently expressed in Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, which I introduced myself on December 5, 2002.

The preamble to Bill C-20 echoes the importance of the issues addressed by the motion. In particular, the preamble notes:

--the Parliament of Canada has grave concerns regarding the vulnerability of children to all forms of exploitation, including child pornography, sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect;

As hon. members know, there are five key components of Bill C-20: first, strengthening the child pornography provisions; second, providing better protection to young persons against sexual exploitation; third, strengthening sentencing provisions related to offences against children; fourth, facilitating testimony by child victims and witnesses and other vulnerable witnesses; and fifth, modernizing the criminal law by creating a new voyeurism offence.

I welcome this motion because I believe Bill C-20 delivers what is proposed by the motion.

Currently, the Criminal Code provides a defence for material that has artistic merit or serves an educational, scientific or medical purpose. It also makes the public good defence available for all child pornography offences.

Hon. members will recall that the constitutionality of the offence of possession of child pornography was considered by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001 in the Sharpe case. In its decision, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed Parliament's goal of protecting children from sexual exploitation through child pornography.

A key element in the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the overall child pornography scheme was the existence of the current child pornography defences.

Bill C-20 is consistent with the Supreme Court decision. It is intended to simplify and reduce the number of defences that now exist, merging them into one defence based on the public good. In each case, the validity of this defence will be determined in two stages.

First, does the material or act in question serve the public good? If it does not, then there will be no defence. Second, even if it does serve the public good, does it go beyond what serves the public good? If it goes beyond, then there will be no defence. In other words, does the risk of harm posed by an act or material in question outweigh any potential benefit to society? If it does, no defence will be available. This is what today's motion proposes.

Let me explain what is meant by public good because this concept has been misunderstood by some.

In the recent Sharpe case, the Supreme Court of Canada considered a public good defence specifically in the context of child pornography, including the meaning of public good. The Supreme Court noted that the public good had been interpreted as including matters that were necessary or advantageous to the administration of justice, the pursuit of science, literature, art or other objects of general interest.

This interpretation is perhaps more clearly understood if one considers how it might operate at a practical level. For example, the administration of justice would include the possession of child pornography as part of a police investigation of a child pornography offence, the possession of child pornography by crown prosecutors for the purpose of prosecuting a child pornography offence and the possession of child pornography by police and prosecutors for the purpose of providing training to police and prosecutors on the conduct of child pornography investigations and prosecutions or even for the purpose of providing educational session to parliamentarians on the harms of child pornography.

All these purposes fall within the administration of justice and all of them necessarily require police and prosecutors to possess child pornography to do their job, a job which the government recognizes as serving the public good.

Bill C-20 recognizes that law enforcement officials must be able to track down child pornographers and protect victims. They are performing a difficult job which serves the public interest and, therefore, they should have the protection of the law.

Consider another example: a journalist who is doing an investigative news story on a child pornography ring. In the course of exposing the child porn ring, this journalist may come into contact with material that constitutes child porn. Again, this expose serves the public good and, as a society, we value this kind of work. Again I believe that this approach is consistent with today's motion.

The proposal in Bill C-20 of a single defence of public good also adds another criterion that is not currently provided for in the artistic merit defence.

Under the current artistic merit defence, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, any objectively established artistic value provides a complete defence. From that perspective, there is no requirement to balance this merit, or good, against any potential harm to society.

Under Bill C-20, the courts must also take into account a second criterion, namely whether the “good” served by an act or any material related to an act offsets potential harm.

Just because there is only one defence, based on public good, does not mean that the legislator is suggesting that child pornography is acceptable. Clearly this is not the case. The government has taken very tangible steps, which denounce child pornography in no uncertain terms.

Bill C-20 proposes another reform with respect to child pornography. It proposes broadening the definition of written child pornography to include materials that advocate or counsel prohibited sexual activity with children, and also materials that describe prohibited sexual activity with children where the written descriptions of that activity are the dominant characteristic of the material and the material was written for a sexual purpose.

The bill includes this proposal because the government recognizes the harm this type of material can cause to children and to Canadian society by describing children as objects of sexual exploitation.

As well, I want to emphasize that the proposals in Bill C-20 seek better protection against sexual exploitation through child pornography in a manner that will withstand charter scrutiny.

The government takes very seriously its responsibility to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation, including child pornography, as well as its responsibility to uphold the charter. I repeat that it is not a question of doing one or the other. Bill C-20 does both.

The purpose of Bill C-20 is to refine all the prohibitions already in place in Canada with respect to child pornography, prohibitions which are among the strictest in the world.

Since 1993, it has been an offence under the Criminal Code to make, print, publish or possess for the purpose of publication any child pornography, to import, distribute, sell or possess for the purpose of distribution or sale any child pornography, or to possess any child pornography.

Since July 2002, and as a result of Bill C-15A, it has also been an offence under the Criminal Code to transmit, make available or export child pornography or possess child pornography for the purpose of transmission, making available or exporting, as well as to access child pornography.

The same set of reforms also allowed the courts to order child pornography deleted from computer systems, including websites in Canada, and created the new offence of using a computer system in a way, such as through the Internet, to communicate with a child for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against that child.

In addition to these important legislative measures, the government continues to work with its G-8 partners in developing a common strategy to counter the exploitation of children via the Internet. This strategy is comprised of measures to improve international cooperation, prevention, public awareness and local actions in other countries.

There is one extremely important point to be made here. We in Canada have one of the toughest laws in the world, born of our desire to fight tenaciously against this crime, which is so fundamentally heinous and has no place whatsoever in our society, or indeed in any other.

We are well aware, however, that this crime is now taking on a new dimension, a new form because of the variety of means of communication now available, including the Internet. Because of these new technologies, crime is no longer limited by borders.

It goes without saying that perhaps what is required first and foremost to remedy this situation properly is good international cooperation. At the last G-8 meeting in Paris, we had an opportunity to discuss stepping up cooperation and to examine certain studies carried out, precisely with a view to determining solid bases for that cooperation.

We also had the opportunity at that time to hear the views of others involved in international investigations. Once again, they demonstrated the importance of working together internationally in order to ensure that we are able to seek and destroy these networks wherever they are established, even if they work out of countries that may be somewhat less vigilant as far as their legislation or police intervention is concerned.

As Minister of Justice it is my responsibility to ensure that our criminal laws, our policies and indeed the criminal justice system itself reflect evolving Canadian values and emerging justice issues.

The government recognizes the importance of ensuring a strong and effective criminal law response to child pornography. Our children represent our future. We will not allow the most vulnerable in our society to be victimized by pornography. That is what Canadians expect us to do.

The protection of children bill is currently before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I call on hon. members to protect our children by supporting Bill C-20 and to ensure its swift passage. This will enable Canada to continue to be a world leader in the fight against child pornography and the protection of our children.

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11 a.m.

An hon. member

It will never happen.

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11 a.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

I cannot believe what I just heard from the other side. I am counting on members to support me and pass Bill C-20 in order to ensure that as a country we keep giving our young the best protection in the world. The member just said that the passing of Bill C-20 will never happen. This is a disgusting comment.

We believe that Canada as a society needs Bill C-20 in order to increase the protection of children. As well we need Bill C-20 in order to answer the Sharpe decision.

It does not take a rocket scientist to understand what the government is doing. We are working for the future of our nation. Listen to what was just said. He said no to the passing of Bill C-20. He should be ashamed.

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11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I find it amazing that the justice minister would go on with that rhetoric.

Since 1993 the government has been in charge of this issue. It is now 2003. For the member's information, it is a lot worse in 2003 than it has ever been. That is what the police departments told the committee. I know the minister knows it. He has heard it time and time again. He has heard it from the lawyers throughout the country time and time again. Bill C-20 does not cut it. The rhetoric goes on. It is not the answer. We need more than that.

The minister talked about public good. Of course if a journalist wants to investigate a pornography ring to break it up and bring it to light, that is for the good of the public. Nobody denies that. All the hours of hard work the police are doing and having all of what they confiscate in their possession, of course that is for the good of the public. One does not have to be very smart to figure that out. People who try to figure out why people do these things against our kids, the psychologists, psychiatrists, or whatever they are, and they have the material in their possession for research and whatever, of course that is for the good of the public. Nobody argues that.

At the present time it sounds to me that the police departments that have this material in their possession once again will have to spend hours going through the material to make absolutely certain that it is not for the public good, piece by piece, like they do now for artistic merit. That has not been taken care of.

I find it strange that the justice minister would jump up, point a finger over here and say we are saying it will never happen. It is the police and the lawyers who are saying that the bill is not good enough. The only ones who are saying it is good enough are the justice minister and others in that front row. If they cannot get it right, they should redo it. They have the opportunity by supporting a motion like this one.

The exploitation of children must come to an end. Bill C-20 will not accomplish that, as testified to by all the experts. I am no expert. I am repeating their words. And by George, the minister is no expert either. He ought to listen to them. Why will he not listen to them?

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11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to go through a few items that I have here and after that, I am going to ask one very simple question.

The aim and goal of the government, and it is a top priority, is to offer the best protection we can to our children and to do everything we can as a government and as a society to protect our children. They are our future.

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11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Ten years and you have not done anything.

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11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

It is true for this government and even though sometimes they make comments, I believe that members on the other side of the House have exactly the same aim and goal.

Look at what we have done as a country over the past few years. First, I said in my remarks that we have one of the best pieces of legislation in the world nationally speaking. We have to be proud of that.

Also, look at what took place in the United States. About a year ago they were discussing the question of virtual child pornography which was maybe or maybe not covered by existing legislation following a judgment of the U. S. supreme court. With the existing legislation that Canada has, virtual child pornography is strictly criminal. As I said, there is no place for such an offence in Canada or anywhere else in the world.

As well we have proceeded as a government with Bill C-15A which created the new offence of Internet luring. It has been used successfully in order to charge people using new technologies. Bill C-15A is quite a nice piece of legislation which ensures that those people committing such an offence will not be able to use new technology in order to exploit the children of our nation.

Look at what we did within the G-8. Canada is actually one of the leaders in trying to increase cooperation to create and develop new tools in order to make sure we deter people from getting involved in such a crime anywhere in the world. We have been working over the past few years and we are going to keep working hard.

Opposition members know very well that we have also established a pilot project with the government of Manitoba and my counterpart the justice minister, Gordon Mackintosh. We have been working together in order to establish Cybertip.ca, which is a tip line for people to get in touch with Cybertip. Let me say that when we look at the stats, it is amazing what they have been able to do working together, working with the population.

From September 2002 to July 2003, 324 reports were made to Cybertip.ca. Ninety per cent of these concerned child pornography on the Internet and 9% dealt with the question of the new offence of Internet luring. Of the total, 152, or 42%, were forwarded to law enforcement agencies for action and resulted in four arrests. Thirty-five other cases are under active investigation.

We on this side of the House, the Liberal government, are working hard in order to take concrete action, concrete measures. Now we are facing a new step which is Bill C-20, an answer to the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sharpe decision, making sure that we will increase the protection of our children, making sure that we will have better legislation as well.

Today I am asking as justice minister those people on the other side of the House to support Bill C-20. What I am asking is that they stand today and say that yes, they will support Bill C-20 because they believe in the future of this nation.

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11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister rattle on and on about Bill C-20 as the placebo, as the answer to all our ill will here.

The problem with Bill C-20 is that we have had a majority government for 10 years and it has not moved on it. If child protection is a priority, I would hate to see something that is not a priority. This is a snail's pace, even worse. We are going backwards according to police associations and the justice community. They are saying that Bill C-20 does not do it.

The big thing the minister goes on and on about, and I have to reply to a petition I have here on child pornography, is the increase in maximum sentencing. It is not the maximum that needs to be increased. It is the minimum that needs to be increased. That is not addressed at all.

I have a short question for the minister. Where is the truth in sentencing in Bill C-20? Where is the consecutive sentencing for perpetrators of child pornography in Bill C-20?

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11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-20 touches on the question of child pornography. It has new measures as well with regard to the protection of the most vulnerable in our society.

First, we are touching on the question of the sentencing. As a government, we respect the process in place. The member knows very well that the bill is before the justice committee and members are hearing witnesses.

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11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

That doesn't mean anything to you.

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11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Please let me finish.

People are hearing from witnesses. People will have their say as well and the chance to propose some amendments. We do not pretend that the bill is perfect. As I said, we believe it is a fantastic piece of legislation. If we can improve it, we will. I would be more than pleased to have very positive proposals.

However, what I cannot accept and I will never accept is an opposition party that says “no” to passing an important bill such as Bill C-20, when a minister of the crown has asked for it to be passed. Today the opposition members will have to stand up and tell Canadians that they will support Bill C-20. They will do their jobs at the justice committee and if they do not, they will have to explain to Canadians why they have refused to offer the best protection possible for them.

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11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois on this final allotted day on the business of supply. It is worth noting that last year the final opposition day was in early December. This indicates the government's firm intention to avoid the embarrassing situation that would arise if the member for LaSalle—Émard were to return to the House after his coronation on November 14 as de facto head of the federal government.

The Canadian Alliance motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should protect our children from further sexual exploitation by immediately eliminating from child pornography laws all defences for possession of child pornography which allow for the exploitation of children.

The wording of this motion could give rise to a number of questions. I will start by addressing its intent, and will move on to the wording later on. It is rather a rare occurrence for the Bloc Quebecois to be so strongly in agreement with the Canadian Alliance, whose repressive and regressive approach generally does not correspond with the vision of Quebec.

Nevertheless, no one could oppose the highly sensitive subject we are addressing today, for the simple reason that it is a basic matter of protecting those who are fundamental to the continuation of our society: our future, that is our children.

In my opinion, the sexual exploitation of children is the most vile and perverse form of pornography. Parliamentarians have a moral duty to protect the must vulnerable members of our society, our children, who also constitute our greatest treasure. In my opinion, of all deviant behaviours, sexually deviant behaviours that is, the exploitation of children is the one that is evidence of the most vile and profound psychological disturbance.

It may be astounding to some of us that certain individuals entertain sexual fantasies involving children, the same sort of angry shock we feel when cases of pedophilia and child pornography are made public. Unfortunately, this is the sad reality, and the advent of new communications technologies has made possible a dramatic increase in this phenomenon, in the more anonymous, as it were, setting of the Internet.

There is no doubt whatsoever in the minds of any of us who have had the misfortune to see just what horrors, what disgusting material, can be found on the Internet, that action must be taken, action that must be as firm and immediate as possible.

Bound children, tortured children, exploited children, wounded children who will remain damaged all their lives, that is what we can find much too easily today, on the Internet and elsewhere. As parliamentarians it is our duty to say, “Enough. Stop it now,” and to put into place all the necessary legislative measures to protect our children and provide the police with the tools they need to fight this plague.

Pornographers and pedophiles often succeed in infiltrating what are called “e-circles”, clandestine, transient, electronic networks, which grow up and die off quickly, making it more difficult for the police to infiltrate them.

Of course, some perverted people will inevitably make a mistake that gives away their identity, but too often, many more get away.

According to Cpl. François Doré of the Sûreté du Québec, the Ottawa Interpol office dealt with more than 500 cases of juvenile pornography on the Web during 2001, which was double the previous year's total.

In an article on January 21, 2002 in La Presse , the same Cpl. Doré quite rightly observed:

That is not just an increase; it is an explosion.

He calls upon us to act. That is one more reason why governments, with all the means at their disposal, must fight to eliminate this plague that attacks the most vulnerable and most fragile among us, our children.

Internet chat rooms are also favourite places for sexual predators, who often lure young people into virtual conversations, or chats. In these virtual forums it is all too easy for a 50-year-old to pass for a 13 year-old boy and strike up erotic or sexual conversations with girls or boys the same age.

The purpose of the Canadian Alliance motion is to eliminate all possible forms and means of defence in the legislation on child pornography, for anyone possessing the material targeted by the law. Here we must be very careful.

As we know, the House is considering Bill C-20, which deals specifically with amendments to the Criminal Code. This legislation has been debated and studied for some time in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

The Bloc Quebecois has developed the best approach to the issue, in my view, because we have taken into account specific situations that could prevent the spread of this scourge. We also listened carefully to all the experts, particularly the police experts, who appeared before the committee and shared their point of view.

As we have said, we are in favour of Bill C-20 because we feel that this bill touches on several important aspects of criminal law and introduces new provisions that have become necessary because of the technology around us.

However, obviously some of the provisions raise questions, doubts and reservations in our minds, particularly with respect to the sensitive issue of possession of child pornography.

I cannot emphasis strongly enough the profound perversion associated with child pornography. However, it is important for parliamentarians to question the need, for a therapist for instance, to possess a certain amount of this material for the purpose of clinically treating sexual deviances.

To encompass some possible defences, the government introduced the concept of public good. We have not expressed any reservations with respect to the concept of public good in Bill C-20, but we will have many reservations if the concept is not defined better. We are going to present many amendments in committee in order to establish a clear definition of public good, if it is to stay in the bill.

I have examples of clarifications to be made to the concept of public good. We all agree that the possession of pornographic videos involving children would be considered a criminal offence. However, a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of pedophiles could justify having such videos in his possession for treatment purposes because his possessing such tapes serves the public good. In this case, the possession of videos is more helpful than harmful.

Another example which I find justified or justifiable concerns the law enforcement agencies specialized in cracking down on child pornography. It seems normal to me that these agencies should have access to a certain amount of material in order to track sexual predators on the web, or Internet, and convict them.

The next example concerns medical research or teaching, police officers for instance, those called on to fight this scourge, what child pornography is all about and how it can be detected, or teaching future psychiatrists and psychologists in university possible treatments for the sexual deviances or perversions affecting child pornographers.

Without going as far as proposing an amendment to the motion of our colleagues from the Canadian Alliance, I would encourage all hon. members to give some thought to what I have said as they reflect on the motion. I encourage them to consider in an open yet in-depth manner this bill, which the justice minister himself described as subject to improvement.

In addition, I encourage the government to be open to constructive amendments from all sides of the House, because we must all work hand in hand, as parliamentarians, in order to eradicate this scourge in our society.

Finally, while the wording may not be the most appropriate, I urge my hon. colleagues to support the motion anyway, because its basic intent is clearly to protect our children. This intent of protecting our children could be acted on by improving the bill brought before us through constructive amendments to ensure that our children, the most precious and vulnerable members of our society, are protected as much as possible, because they represent our future.

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11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech given by the hon. member from the Bloc. I know where he is coming from in terms of the motivation behind the support for the motion.

I believe it is this member who has twin boys who are about five years of age. I can understand why he is so adamant about making sure that whatever we do in the House we get it right. I think that is the message he tried to deliver in his speech: whatever we do, let us get it right. I certainly thank him for his support on this motion, because I think that is what we all want to do. I think that is what you want to see, Mr. Speaker, and I know that is what I want to see accomplished. I think even the justice minister wants to see it and is attempting to do it through Bill C-20.

However, the word is out fairly strongly from the experts. I have not listened to the witnesses at the committee, but I have talked to the same individuals in person when doing my research. They simply say that Bill C-20 needs a powerful lot of improvement and is ineffective in its present form.

Would the member comment on what needs to happen to Bill C-20 to make it effective such that it would have the same intent that I have with this motion?

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11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the hon. member for Wild Rose for his question. One of the first things that must be done if we are to retain the idea of public good in this bill is to make it more specific. A number of witnesses, some who were more liberal in their interpretation of child pornography and some from the other side, said it was too broad. No one is sure what it means.

Police officers appeared before us, saying that from their front line position, they did not know how they should interpret such a broad concept as “public good”. We need more direction. The Toronto police were among those who told us that, and it affected me deeply.

Another example of what could be done would be to permit the introduction in evidence of a certain number of images of child pornography, rather than the thousands of images that can be found in a computer. When someone is prosecuted for drug possession—say, a tonne of cocaine—the entire tonne of cocaine is not brought into court. Samples are brought in. The same thing could be done with the pornographic pictures.

Something else that is essential to help the police is to know what happens to an encrypted file, that is, supposing someone has encrypted their pictures. The police are unable to open them. We should include in C-20 a specific infraction that if the owner or user of the computer does not give the encryption key for the file, he may be charged with another criminal offence. All of this would be to help police track everything to do with child pornography, using electronic means among others.

For these three examples, I will be moving a number of amendments in committee. This is a bill that we in the Bloc Quebecois take very seriously. As a father of young children, as the hon. member for Wild Rose pointed out, I am particularly sensitive to this issue. Having seen what can be found on the Internet, I think we must deal very severely with these child pornographers.

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11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the justice minister claims, Bill C-20 simply will not provide adequate provisions to protect our children against those who would exploit our children through the use of child pornography.

Why does the Minister of Justice refuse to listen and remove the artistic merit defence under the public good clause of Bill C-20?

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11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, you will have some idea how odd it is for me to be asked a question on the intentions of the minister of justice. I am not one of his confidants, far from it.

The best way to respond is to invite members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and then the members of this House, to be constructive in their criticism. Some of the criticism of the bill has been justified. I said that again today in committee. I believe that, with good will, we can complete consideration of a bill in the House before November 7, since we are probably going to stop sitting on November 7.

Instead of saying that this is no good, must be scrapped, set aside, I think we have a duty to bring in amendments, in committee or here in the House, that will allow it to achieve its purpose. I would like the Alliance members—the hon. member for Wild Rose in particular, who has been working on this issue for years—the members of the Bloc Quebecois, the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP, as well as the Liberals, who also have some questions and reservations on Bill C-20, to work together on this.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is working very hard on this already. We are sitting endlessly. Let us improve this bill along with the justice minister, whom I invite, beg even, to be open to any amendments we might suggest. Let us ensure that, after November 7, thanks to this bill from this House, our children will be better protected than before. That is my goal.

I will not come to the defence of my colleague, the justice minister. If, however, he accepts the amendments the Bloc Quebecois proposes, the bill will be more solid, will be a better bill, and will protect our children better. That is the objective of all members of this House.

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11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this morning in the House to take part in this very important debate on the supply motion of the official opposition. I will be dividing my time with the member for New Brunswick Southwest. Let me begin by reiterating the motion:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should protect our children from further sexual exploitation by immediately eliminating from child pornography laws all defences for possession of child pornography which allow for the exploitation of children.

They key element of the supply motion is about protecting our children. I am sure that Canadians have been waiting intensely for years for the government to put in legislation that in fact will protect our children.

I have just come from the justice committee where we were doing amendments this morning, clause by clause, for Bill C-23, on the sex offender registry. Already we find that there is one weak point. There is no retroactivity element in the bill. In other words, if the bill passes it will be applicable only to those who are in the process of judicial activity, but there will be no retroactivity. In other words, convicted sex offenders in this country will not have to register anywhere in this country unless they reoffend.

I also want to take my time to give some balance in terms of the debate. Again, I have been fortunate to take part in a lot of the hearings with Bill C-20, which is about child pornography. We have heard from many witnesses. We need to get a balanced presentation on this debate today. I would like to begin by quoting from some of the documents. One witness from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada submitted a presentation that stated:

In conclusion, we are pleased that this legislation [Bill C-20] takes steps to improve the protection of children in Canada and to reduce exploitation of them. We support the amendments that strengthen the child pornography provisions by adding a new broader definition of written pornography and a more narrow defence of public good.

The presentation goes on to state that the increase in maximum sentences for child-related offences is commendable, although the fellowship believes that minimum sentences “would be more effective”. It concludes by saying:

Any reasonable initiative that will make courtroom experiences less traumatic for child victims and witnesses is commendable, as well. We support this provision of Bill C-20.

The presentation then states:

However, we note that Bill C-20's new category of sexual exploitation necessarily places child victims in a courtroom experience and requires them to provide details of their intimate relationships in order to ascertain whether exploitation has taken place. We are concerned that this provision will either further victimize exploited children or be ineffective. A far more effective way to protect young Canadians from sexual exploitation would be to raise the age of consent to sexual activity to 18 years of age.

That is from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Let me proceed to make some statements about what the CBC had to say. Again, members of the artistic community are concerned as well how legislation on pornography will affect them. The recommendation of the CBC is that both specific journalistic defence and in defence of the public interest be included as defences for the offence of voyeurism. It suggests the following wording:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the acts that are alleged to constitute the offence serve the public good, are in the public interest or the acts were those of a person engaged in journalistic activities for

(i) any newspaper or other paper containing public news, or

(ii) for a broadcaster or internet web news provider licensed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to carry on a broadcasting transmitting undertaking or benefiting from an exemption order of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Most people in Ontario have heard of Project Guardian. Carrie Kohan appeared before the committee and she had many interesting things to share as she has firsthand experience with sexual predators. In her presentation to the standing committee, she said:

Because we all share in this plight, it is our societal responsibility to put children's rights first. It is our duty to focus our efforts not only on the protection of the child, but also to provide, at the very least, the same level of rehabilitation as that provided today to the child rapist while incarcerated.

She went on to say that:

It is our conclusion that our legislation needs to become tough on this crime. Yes, removing the rights to freedom of the convicted pedophile may seem harsh to the vocal minority, but to the emerging majority it is a logical and necessary step. We need penalties worthy of second thought in Canada, or more specifically we need penalties that will cause pedophiles to have second thoughts about child abuse in Canada, because child rape is a most heinous crime and is deserving of the most severe penalties.

She concluded by saying that if a child victim who had experienced this crime had the opportunity to sit before the committee today, she was sure that he or she would agree with her as well.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts also submitted a brief to the standing committee. Its concern was in relation to the elimination of the artistic merit defence and that it would create confusion and punish artists. It stated in its presentation:

The CCA opposes the elimination of the artistic merit defence in s.163.1. Eight years after s.163.1 was inserted in the Criminal Code, the Supreme Court in Sharpe gave an extensive definition of the artistic merit defence. The CCA was greatly relieved by this development because the definition is broad enough to ensure that young artists or artists working with novel or transgressive subject matter would not suffer the ignominy of being prosecuted in the criminal courts. Although the Court also went on to carve out two exceptions to the offences of possessing or making child pornography, it did so in order to avoid having to strike down the entire law on the ground that it was an overbroad infringement of the freedom of expression. As a result, the child pornography law has largely been “saved” and is wide enough to capture virtually all situations in which expressive material could lead to harm to children.

Let me close by quoting the Writers' Union of Canada. It had great concerns about defences for child pornography. Its summary stated:

We believe that the proposed changes to the child pornography provisions of the Criminal Code set out in Bill C-20 are overbroad and infringe the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They will greatly increase the likelihood of the arbitrary exercise of prosecutorial discretion to lay charges against creators of written and visual material falling within a broadened definition of child pornography, particularly without the existing defence of artistic merit. Our greatest concern is that the sole remaining defence of the public good will not be interpreted by courts to encompass a defence of artistic merit or purpose because Parliament has deliberately chosen to remove this defence from the existing legislation. We submit that the proposed changes to the law will lead to increased self-censorship by writers and other artists and cast a chill on expression of ideas.

In closing, Canadians look forward to legislation that will certainly protect the children of this country.

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11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member on a very good speech. I also want to congratulate the member who proposed the motion for taking leadership on this issue.

Canadians watching this debate today would be inclined to ask, why are we even debating the issue? Surely no one could be against protecting our children from sexual exploitation?

Should we not be looking at other areas of sexual exploitation as well? Maybe we should zero in on the CRTC, since we see on its airwaves at any time of the day or evening sexual exploitation taking place. The airwaves are filled with the kinds of images that sexually exploit children, and it is all done in the name of freedom of speech and artistic merit.

Would the member care to comment on whether or not we need to look at these kinds of things, such as the CRTC, to see what kind of shows and presentations the CRTC is allowing on the air these days? We see children being exploited by these kinds of images when we look at television at any hour of the day or evening. Surely the CRTC has some responsibility in that regard. Is it living up to its mandate?

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11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, all we need to do is turn on a computer today and we are faced with the element of spam, which is also a huge challenge not only to this country, but to the rest of the world. Other countries are looking at the same problem in terms of dealing with spam and pornography.

We all know that pornography is rampant in this country and the rest of the world as well. We know that pornography can lead to other activities. There is the market trade and exchange of pornographic pictures. In this instance, we are talking not only about children but infants as well.

This past week the committee had the opportunity to listen to the RCMP on how it deals with the whole business of child pornography, both photographic and on the Internet. This is a huge challenge before us.

I understand there are plans to introduce legislation dealing with Internet trafficking of pornographic material. I encourage the government to continue to deal with that matter. It is a huge challenge and we will continue to work on it.

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11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the two justice critics in the House for the work they did on the bill. Our own justice critic, who is the leader of the PC Party, the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and the Canadian Alliance member for Provencher did a tremendous job on the bill to improve it.

The fundamental question in terms of protecting our children goes right back to the inability of the government to do anything. It is a habit it has developed over the 10 years it has been in power. There is no question that because of some of the things that previous governments did--and I was a member and sat on the government side on some of the big initiatives that we took to get the economic house in order--the current government has coasted on those over the years. I am talking about such things as free trade and the GST. In fact, it did have money to do things but did not have to pay any attention to detail.

Assuming and accepting that argument, we would expect that. It is what most governments do when the economy is sorrowfully chugging along and going fairly nicely without any major initiatives, in other words, when it is not taking up a lot of its time. I challenge any member on that side of the House to get up and tell me any big economic initiative, trade or taxation policy that the government had to bring in to deal with fiscal difficulties it was facing. The fact of the matter is that it had to do nothing, just keep house and allow the machinery of government to run. And run it did.

The fact is the government had time to pay attention to social and justice issues and it has not done that. In fact, Bill C-20 has practically no support anywhere on this side of the House and very little support on that side of the House. Bill C-20 will never be passed in the life of this Parliament.

When the new leader comes in, the Martinites will take over. I hate to use the term Martinites. I would like to call them termites because they have secretly eroded the foundation of government for the last year and a half to two years.

Now we have a government that is moribund. It does not know how to do anything and there are many examples of that. It is not just Bill C-20. We can look at the fiasco that is taking place with the $700 million announced for rail service on the trade corridor between Windsor and Montreal. There is no clear indication that it will ever happen because the termites, the Martinites, are secretly undermining the government. In fact, we have a justice minister who has been caught up in that as well.

How would you like to have a record like his coming to the House, Mr. Speaker? He is sitting on a bill that could do something, but will do absolutely nothing. He will be sitting there for a long time before that bill is passed in this House simply because there is no will on the part of the government to pass it. In the meantime our children will suffer.

We saw last night the police chief of the City of Toronto, and the pain and hurt that police officers see every day of their lives. How the Government of Canada could miss that message is beyond my belief.

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11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

The government handcuffed him.

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11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

He has been simply handcuffed by his own people.

We have a government that is moribund. In fact, we will be voting on the principle of lack of leadership or the lack of government, or the duality of government that exists on that side of the House.

This House will rise in about a week or so and will not be back until the new king is crowned. That is pathetic. It means that this bill will die on the Order Paper.

In the meantime, what toll will that take on our young Canadians? The government is in a position to do something, but is doing nothing with guys like Mr. Sharpe, the serial pedophile. It is doing nothing with a bill that could eliminate those people from doing those horrible deeds against our children. We could do something in the House. That bill could pass very quickly if there is a willingness on the part of government to do something.

The faint hope clause could be eliminated, so when these people go before the courts, they could be sentenced appropriately and they would not be given the ability to do it again. They would be locked up behind bars, where they deserve to be.

We have to tighten up those loopholes in the Criminal Code. We can do that with Bill C-20. That is something the justice minister has been very reluctant to do.

If the members remember, one of the defences in the Sharpe case was the idea of artistic merit, believe it or not, because the pornography he was displaying or the personal pornography he had was for his own enjoyment. That is a pretty weak defence when a guy can go loose or be on the streets simply because of artistic merit.

The minister does not even address that loophole in the bill. In fact in some of the testimony provided by the minister himself at the committee hearings, he basically admitted that it would not close that loophole. In fact that loophole of artistic merit will still exist in the bill as presently written.

The question is, why would the minister not address that point? Why would he allow a bill like this to go forward if it does not close those loopholes? Why does he fail to stand up for the families that deserve to have their children protected? That is as simple as the argument can get and as basic as the argument has to get. Why would he not do that? He is victimizing our children.

When the justice minister, the one person in Canada who can make a difference, just simply sits there and does not address the needs of Canadians and the protection of young Canadians why should he be there? He is there because he will coast to office I guess on the Martinite train and that is the only reason.

The ministers are not simply there because of their ability to get the job done. They are simply coasting through office. It is time that Canadians take them to task for this and I believe they will in the next election.

Maybe it is time for the limousine Liberals to be derailed. Maybe it is time for Canadians to examine their record very carefully in terms of social justice over the last 10 years. What have they accomplished? We know they have coasted on the economy but they cannot coast forever. This legislation deserves to be passed and should be passed. However some of the recommendations that we have suggested should be in the bill.

At that, I rest my case and look forward to questions and comments from my colleagues.

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11:55 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by commending the member for the motion. He talked about the issues related to children and their welfare, which is very important. I believe the government has neglected these issues.

As well as the other opposition parties, I want to start by reading a letter I received from a constituent regarding a motion that I put forward in the House which dealt with children's issues and the way they were being exploited through some of our environmental conditions. It states:

Dear Brian Masse:

Our daughter was misdiagnosed four and a half years ago with Arthritis. She died four months later of leukemia. We can prove negligence but she died from bleeding internally due to a liver biopsy before treatment could begin.

Now the boy across the street from us is in London fighting for his life with cancer. I find it strange that this is happening in such a close proximity of each other. I think that our children are getting cancer in the Windsor area in far too great a number compared to other areas. They are also being sent to London too late.

The government has done little in terms protecting our children.

The member, in his speech, talked about the things that the government could be doing. Why are we not doing those things, for example, ending child poverty?

My motion interestingly enough was amended by the Bloc member who supported it unanimously and the members of the PC Party at supported it. The amendment was passed, but then when the main motion was voted on a number Alliance members and Liberals switched their votes and it lost narrowly. All the motion did was address the terrible conditions that children find themselves in.

Why do we not have a comprehensive vision of how to protect our children, not only from pornography and from predators, but in the ways in which we go about fashioning laws without providing accountability, when we know these types of things in society are hurting and killing them?

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11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comment from the member for Windsor West. He is dead on in his analysis of the government. On some of the social issues, the Liberal Party truly took a lot of pride in them and I think it was generally well accepted by Canadians over the years. We could look at the electoral results of that party over the years. However, I suggest that it has lost any sense of responsibility for social issues.

One thing I will point out, aside from the education issue and the difficulty that our young people have in terms of affordability of post-secondary education, is the government is sitting on a $45 billion surplus created in the EI account. In other words, it has taken $45 billion more from Canadians in terms of their EI premiums. That is what we pay in every week. After paying out all the benefits, the government has collected $45 billion extra.

The question is what is the government going to do with it? The Liberals could do a number of things. One would be to beef up the justice system in terms of more crown prosecutors and enforcement.

Let us look at one of the other boondoggles. A thousand million dollars, that would be a billion dollars, was wasted on the long gun registry. What could that have done? What could police officers do with an extra billion dollars?

The government has simply lost all sense of responsibility in terms of young people, justice issues and social issues. That used to be the cornerstone of that party. However, it has certainly lost its way and it has to have a reality check. We hope the Canadian public will do that the next time it goes to the polls.

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Noon

The Deputy Speaker

There is approximately one minute left, so I caution members to be somewhat brief if they do anticipate a response. The hon. member for Prince Albert.