House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was protect.


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3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the very passionate and effective speech by the hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca.

In 1982 when the current Prime Minister was justice minister, he told the Toronto Star :

Children are innocent victims of vicious people. They cannot protect themselves and we have to protect them. I hate the thought of these people abusing people who are too young to realize in what it is they are participating.

After 21 years the situation has gone from bad to worse. There are reports of an increase in the numbers of youth being sexually exploited. Canada is registered on the Internet as an international source for sex with children and youth.

If the Prime Minister felt that way 21 years ago, what has happened since? He is still Prime Minister. The weak Liberal government has done nothing to protect our children. The bottom line is it seems there is no political will from the government. For 10 years or more members of the Canadian Alliance and previously the Reform Party of Canada have been asking the government to get tough on protecting our children against sexual predators.

Does the member agree with me that the weak, arrogant Liberal government lacks the political will to protect our children?

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3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Surrey Central has made an excellent point. He has illustrated quite clearly that the Prime Minister acknowledged publicly the problem of sexual abuse of children in our society 20 years ago. We in the opposition cannot understand why it has taken 20 years to come up with a bill that is less than adequate given the fact that one-third of all girls under the age of 16 and one out of every six boys under the age of 16 have been sexually abused at some time. That is a staggering amount.

We have not heard what the effect is on those people. What does it lead to? Clinically it often leads to various psychiatric or psychological problems, depression, affected interpersonal relations and sometimes suicide. An inordinate percentage of the individuals within the population of abusers have also been sexually abused.

The point I am trying to make is that clearly we know that this is an epidemic in our society that has been neglected for too long. As my friend from Surrey Central has mentioned, we in the Alliance are pushing the government to act effectively, in a timely fashion and above all, to work with the rest of us for the protection of Canadian citizens and particularly Canadian children.

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3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to direct one more question to my hon. colleague for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. One thing I have been particularly incensed by over the years is the use by our courts of conditional sentencing where it is inappropriate such as in the case of violent crimes and in particular crimes committed against children.

I notice that Bill C-20, the legislation being quite hotly debated today, increases some maximum sentences but it does not provide any minimum sentences. Nor does not take away the use of conditional sentencing by judges in crimes against children.

Would the hon. member agree with me that this is one area where the government certainly could have acted effectively to provide a deterrent for those who would prey upon our nation's children.

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3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree. When we deal with the protection of children against pedophiles, clearly the justice department and our judicial system has to err on the side of protecting the children against sexual abuse. Conditional sentencing does not do that.

What my friend has not mentioned, but I am sure would like to, is the issue of concurrent sentences. Sentencing somebody to concurrent or conditional sentences does not protect civilians. We have heard repeatedly in the House that many of these individuals, once they go in front of the justice system, have already sexually assaulted more than a dozen children. This is not a one off deal. It is a pressing, persistent, pervasive and consistent abnormal behaviour of sexually abusing and assaulting children.

Clearly we need a judicial system that puts the protection of children from these predators first and foremost. Conditional and concurrent sentencing does not do that. That is why we are asking for the minimum sentence.

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3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has notice of a point of order from the hon. member for Mississauga South.

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February 3rd, 2003 / 3:35 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the members for interfering with their business. These have to do with the report stage of Bill C-13.

On Thursday, January 30, Hansard reference 2949, on a vote on report stage Motion No. 64, the Chair called for yeas and nays but did not announce whether the yeas or nays carried. He simply concluded that the motion was carried. Because he did not say that in his opinion the yeas had it, members did not know whether five members on one side or the other side would have to stand to cause a deferred recorded vote. This is clearly on the tapes and in Hansard of last Thursday.

Subject to check by you, Mr. Speaker, or the officials, I would therefore ask that Motion No. 64 be put again when report stage on Bill C-13 comes back to the floor later today.

The second item relates to a motion of mine, Motion No. 101. In your statement, Mr. Speaker, of January 28, reference Hansard 2766, you stated that the motion was not selected because it was lost in committee. I have gone through this matter with the officials of the Journals branch and the legislative council. The amendment, which was lost in committee, is an amendment to require a parliamentary review every three years from the date at which clause 20 becomes in force.

My motion, Motion No. 101, which is on the order paper says that the review of Parliament shall be every three years, using royal assent as the date. There was confusion between royal assent and in force.

The bill as it presently stands, and it was proposed by an Alliance motion at committee, would have meant that Parliament would not have been able to review this until about five years after the date on which the bill was dealt. My motion would say that the parliamentary review would happen three years after royal asset, that would be three years after the bill is passed.

On the basis that there is a substantial difference between three years and five years, and there is a difference between in force and royal assent, I would ask that you reconsider, Mr. Speaker, the disposition, based upon the opinion of legislative council and the Journals branch, that they are in fact different, that it was not lost at committee and that since this matter would go in Group No. 6, which is still to come up, that this motion be allowed to be put as part of Group No. 6.

Let me give the short version because I know I am taking up the members' time. Motions Nos. 28, 30, 46 and 47 have been put on the report stage motions by the member for St. Paul's. I have reviewed this fully with the Journals branch and with legislative council. They are aware of the details. I would simply say that, based upon the discussions, these motions were moved by a member who was on the committee, that member had every opportunity to make such motions at committee, and that they should not have been put as report stage motions.

There is a confusion in the Journals branch that these motions were a move of a clause from one paragraph to another section of the bill. In fact the motions to delete the clauses from one section and put them in another section of the bill also require that an amendment to the addition of those clauses would be put in, saying “except as in accordance with the regulations”.

I would submit that the change or the addition of a clause requiring the addition of the phrase “except in accordance with the regulations” is a substantive resolution which is much different than simply a move. Therefore the member had an opportunity to do this in committee by defeating the first motion in committee and then adding the replacement motion in the desired spot when it came up. This is the advice I received from Mr. Yanover in the government House leader's office, and I raise it to you for consideration.

This is a very serious motion and a very serious change to the bill. I believe that due consideration should be given as it would appear that these motions are out of order and should not be on the report stage motion paper.

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3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I will deal very quickly with the points raised by the hon. member.

The first point deals with the question of proceedings in the House on January 30. It seems to me that the question was put to the House. The Deputy Speaker said that he thought he did say that in his opinion the yeas had it. Apparently no one stood up and objected.

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3:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

I did immediately following.

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3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

There were no people rising in their places. He declared the motion carried and carried it was.

I am not inclined to redo the proceedings of the House on the basis that some magic words may have been left out. When the Deputy Speaker in charge at the time said he thought he had said them and to make it clearer he then said “I declare the motion carried”, it seemed to me the decision was made. Had there been a group of people rising and objecting at the time, then maybe a vote would have been forced because votes were forced on almost all the other motions on that occasion. I am not inclined to find in the hon. member's favour on that point.

With respect to the other two points, they both are in effect saying that my ruling at the time of the admission of the amendments at report stage on the bill were incorrect. I do not agree. I maintain my ruling and I will not change it. I therefore decline the points that he has raised.

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3:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for dealing with these matters expeditiously. I accept the ruling of the Chair.

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

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3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise again on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate on Bill C-20. I would like to thank the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for sharing his time with me.

The bill we are debating is an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act. So far Bill C-20 has introduced very weak and timid steps toward this issue.

A person would be found guilty of a child pornography offence when the material or act in question does not serve the public good or where the risk of harm outweighs any public benefit.

Some of the other changes are proposed to protect people aged 14 to 18. Of course they would focus not on consent, but on whether the relationship is exploitative based on age difference, control exerted, and other circumstances.

Another step is that it would increase penalties for offences that harm children. The maximum penalty for sexual exploitation would double from 5 years to 10 years.

Bill C-20 would make it a crime to secretly observe or visually record a person where privacy is reasonably expected. Distributing a recording on the World Wide Web or elsewhere would also be a crime. Such an offence would carry a maximum jail term of five years.

We know too well that courts never impose maximum penalties, nor do they have the will to do that. Life never means life and 25 years has meant only 7 or 10 years in jail, just as if there is a scale or route under the maximum penalty sentence. For it to be effective there should be a well defined legislated minimum sentence. That would be a deterrent and not a motivation to commit such a heinous crime.

Last March a British Columbia judge cleared John Robin Sharpe of possession charges, concluding that his graphic child sex stories had artistic merit and were protected by freedom of speech. Canadians want their government to close the loophole left when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled two years ago that there were some exceptions to the child pornography law. Child pornography and artistic merit do not mix. The argument that pornography can be excused because it has artistic merit has angered a lot of Canadian parents. The weak Liberal Government of Canada continues to have one of the most liberal pornography laws in the world.

Last summer, a Pollara poll found that 86% of Canadians disagree with the artistic merit defence. They have been calling for the removal of the provision for the artistic merit defence from the child pornography law. We do not permit artistic merit to be a defence when it comes to hate literature. If we do not accept artistic merit in hate literature, why should we accept artistic merit in the child pornography law, which is meant to protect our innocent children, our future?

A major shortcoming of the bill is that it fails to raise the age of consent from 14 years to at least 16, if not 18, for sexual activity between children and adults. I fail to see the rationale for permitting adults to engage in any sexual activity with children.

Canada has a long history of prohibiting sexual intercourse with young females, regardless of consent. I am not trying to be politically incorrect here, but I am quoting: From 1892 to 1988, sexual intercourse outside of marriage with females under 14 and for those under 16 and “of previously chaste character” was illegal. The maximum penalty upon conviction for sexual intercourse with a female under 14 was life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for sexual intercourse with a female under 16 was five years' imprisonment.

Amendments to the Criminal Code in 1988 repealed unlawful intercourse and seduction offences and in their place created new offences called sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching, which now prohibit adults from engaging in virtually any kind of sexual contact with either boys or girls under the age of 14, irrespective of consent.

There is no question that sexual exploitation is real and a serious risk for children and youth in Canada. Reports indicate that increasing numbers of youths are being sexually exploited and that Canada is listed on the Internet as a source for sex with children and youth. It is shameful.

Having the age of consent set at 14 makes it easy for predators to recruit young people into the sex trade without facing repercussions or without initially committing any offence. Once these youths are entrenched in the relationship, they are then convinced or coerced into engaging in illegal activities.

Recruiters consciously choose to form consensual relationships with youths who are over the age of consent but are as young as possible in order to make it easy to gain a hold on them. Raising the age of consent would assist in the prosecution of adults who buy sex from young people because the adult could be charged with sexual assault, and it would not be necessary to prove that there was negotiation for money or other considerations.

Raising the age of consent would be more consistent with other western industrialized countries. It would discourage sex tourism. Having an older age would send a message internationally that children in Canada are not available for sex.

In B.C.'s lower mainland, we are all too familiar with the problem of prostitution. A study there found that 70% to 80% of Canadian prostitutes enter the trade as children. There are literally hundreds of prostitutes under 17 years of age currently working Vancouver's streets. The recruitment process for the sex trade in Canada preys on young girls and boys and specifically targets those who are at the current age of consent.

According to the Children of the Street Society, the majority of parents who call asking for help have children who are 14 years old and who are being recruited into the sex trade. The society's argument is that if the police had the ability to pick up the girl or boy, regardless of their consent, and return them to their family or take them to a safe house, then many youth could be saved from entering the sex trade.

If we were to think about a 50 year old man being able to target 14 year old runaways for sex and giving them AIDS or other diseases or even getting them pregnant, we might get a different response. The results of dozens of studies show the effect of adult sexual contact with children. They are at a 21% higher risk of clinical depression. They have a 21% greater chance of suicide. There is a 20% increase in post-traumatic stress disorder. There is a 14% jump in extreme promiscuity and involvement in prostitution.

It is a serious risk and a serious challenge and we must take serious action. We suggest that the bill is a timid first step for Canadian children. After months of the Canadian Alliance demanding elimination of the artistic merit defence, the Liberals finally have recognized the danger but have not taken any serious steps.

Children must be protected from abuse at the hands of all adult predators. The age of consent for adult-child sex must be raised from 14 to 16, in addition to having the new categories for exploitative relationships. As well, higher maximum sentences for child pornography and predation will not be effective unless the courts enforce them. I would also like to mention that police and prosecutors still do not have the tools to deal with child pornography cases effectively and efficiently.

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3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech with great interest. A major part of his speech was with regard to raising the age of consent from 14 to 16. I strongly agree. What has happened here in Canada is that we are known worldwide as a shopping network for children, basically, those aged 14 and 15, because people around the world prey upon children of this age and know they cannot be charged here in Canada with a sexual crime.

A ring was broken in Toronto a little while ago. I also heard about a case in Vancouver. Maybe the hon. member could address this. The men in these cases were picked up. One was a 52 year old man who was with a 14 year old child in a hotel room, yet that person could not be charged. He happened to be an American, but these people come from all over the world.

I know that Australia now has a force which goes into the Asian countries where this happens too. The force is now photographing and reporting any Australian citizen who goes into these countries for this activity.

Could the hon. member address that? Does he think that would be a good idea here in Canada?

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3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, it would be a very good idea. I thank the hon. member for raising this issue.

It is vitally important that we do not confuse the physical maturation of children with the psychological maturation of children. Why is it that as a society we feel that children are ill-prepared to drive, drink, vote, marry, drop out of school or even watch violent movies but we feel that they are totally ready to decide for themselves with whom they should have sex? This makes no sense.

Raising the age of sexual consent would put us more in line with other western nations. We know that in Denmark, France and Sweden the age of consent is at least 15. In Australia, Finland, Germany, Holland, Israel, New Zealand, Norway and even the United Kingdom, it is 16. It is time for the Liberals to prohibit adults from having sex with children under the age of 16.

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance, to protect our children and society from sexual predators and this heinous crime, that we raise the age from 14 to at least 16, if not 18, to keep up with the international global phenomenon that has taken place in other countries.

Moreover, that would allow us to clean up the Internet in regard to Canada being a haven for sexual predators or a haven for child sex and sexual tourism. I think it is very important that we protect our children by raising the age from 14 to 16 or 18.

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4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question for the hon. member. I appreciated his words.

Bill C-20 is an omnibus bill and has many items in it that deserve some debate in committee, but to me child pornography is a no-brainer. Child pornography should be brought front and centre in the House of Commons, in my opinion, as an entity on its own, separate from the bill. Every member should come to the House and be dedicated to making certain that our children will never be subjected to the terrible evils that come out of this type of material.

Let us do that. Let us bring it forward as an entity on its own. Let us fix it and stamp it out in its entirety. Does the member agree with doing that?

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4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for raising this issue. Most of us in the House are parents or grandparents. I am a parent of two teenagers. I know that it is our moral responsibility as lawmakers in the country to protect innocent and vulnerable children from pimps and other sexual predators.

It should be a matter of high priority for us because it will strengthen the foundation of the nation. It will strengthen the institution of the family. Those children who are abused, sexually or otherwise, do not have the opportunity to regret what their future will be, a life suffering from depression and other evils like this.

It will strengthen the institution of the family and, as I have said in the past, stronger families make stronger nations. Therefore it is very important that the fundamental principle or foundation of the country should be based on the protection of our children, who are our future leaders. We need to produce a stronger generation of children rather than a weaker generation, an abused generation. Therefore, I would like to say that as Canadians, as parliamentarians, as lawmakers, it is our responsibility to protect children.

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4 p.m.

York West Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the protection of children and other vulnerable persons, and the Canada Evidence Act.

As hon. members know, Bill C-20 proposes a number of criminal law reforms that seek to better protect children against sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect, to facilitate testimony by child victims and witnesses and other vulnerable victims and witnesses in criminal justice proceedings, and to create a new offence of voyeurism.

While I believe that all of these proposed reforms are important, I will restrict my comments to Bill C-20's response to concerns relating to the age of consent to sexual activity.

Bill C-20's objective on this issue is clearly articulated in the first paragraph of the preamble, which reads:

WHEREAS 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;

Simply stated, the focus of the response to concerns about the age of consent to sexual activity is on the exploitive conduct of the wrongdoer and not on whether the young person or victim consented to that conduct. In my view, this is both the right focus and the right response.

As the founder of Canada's first John school program and the streetlight program, it was pointed out to us that these were areas which very much needed enforcement.

More specifically, Bill C-20 proposes to create a new category of prohibited sexual exploitation of a young person who is over the age of consent; that is, who is 14 years of age or older and under 18 years of age. Under the proposed reform, courts would be directed to consider whether the relationship in question was exploitive by looking to the nature and circumstances of the relationship, including any difference in age and the degree of control or influence exerted over the young person, be that person male or female.

I am well aware that there continues to be calls to raise the age of consent for sexual activity. Why is this? As I understand it, these calls appear to be motivated by a number of reasons, including our desire to protect our young people.

One reason sometimes cited is that 14 or 15 year olds are too young and immature to fully appreciate the consequences of their decisions to engage in sexual activity. While many of us might agree with that, it is still true that a 14 or 15 year old does not typically possess the maturity of an 18 year old. We as a society nonetheless consider them mature enough to be treated as an adult under the new Youth Criminal Justice Act for the commission of serious violent offences. We must find a balance between both of these issues.

Another reason appears to be related to differing understandings of what is meant by sexual activity. Canadian prohibitions against sexual activity do not differentiate between sexual activity that consists of kissing and sexual activity that involves sexual intercourse. I do not believe that Canadians think that a 14 or 15 year old girl is not mature enough to freely make a decision about whether or not to kiss her 17 year old boyfriend. Nor do I believe that Canadians want to criminalize a 17 year old for kissing his 14 year old girlfriend. Whether we as adults like it or not, the reality is that adolescents do engage in sexual activity. We on this side of the House, whether we like it or not, have to be responsible legislators.

Another reason sometimes cited in support of raising the age of consent is that raising the age of consent to 16 or 18 will prevent others from forcing young persons into the sex trade. To this I note that it is already an offence under the Criminal Code to force anyone under the age of 18 years into prostitution and that this offence carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years of imprisonment.

Whatever the reason for advocating an increase in the age of consent, the common thread appears to be the prevention of sexual exploitation of young people, which is exactly what Bill C-20 proposes to do.

Unlike proposals to raise the age of consent to 16 years of age, Bill C-20 proposes to extend protection, not only to 14 and 15 year olds but also to 16 and 17 year olds.

Bill C-20 contains many welcomed reforms to the criminal law to protect our most vulnerable members of society. I hope that all hon. members will support Bill C-20 to better protect Canadian children against exploitation in all forms. I am sure all members in the House will put their support behind the bill in order to ensure that we are protecting our children.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, passing bad legislation hoping it will protect children will not do nearly as much as passing good legislation that actually will protect children.

This is the second time in a year that I have risen in the House to call upon the Liberal government to take meaningful steps to protect Canadian children from sexual predators. I am using the expression meaningful steps because I want to make a clear distinction between the government's actions and the needs of Canada's children.

Last April 23, in my other speech, I called upon the Liberal government to raise the age of sexual consent to at least 16. This was raised by my colleague from York just a moment ago. I did so because as we examine Bill C-20, which has the stated purpose of protecting children, we note that the bill does not in fact define what a child is. It relies upon the current definitions in the Criminal Code.

Here it is particularly useful to consider this in the context of sexual exploitation. Clause 4 of Bill C-20 modifies the current section 153(1) of the Criminal Code. At first inspection the modifications appear substantial but the true purpose of the amendment is to increase the punishment for this offence from five years to ten years. Although this increase alone is a positive step, its potential ability to really protect minor children from abuse is minimized unless the age of consent for adult-child sex is raised from 14 to 16 years.

Making this change would be simple and easy. For the purposes of section 153 of the Criminal Code, it would require changing one word in section 153(2). That is right. If we were to change the word “fourteen” to “sixteen” in section 153(2), we could raise the age of consent for the purpose of 153(1) to 16 years of age. Right there, that single word change would offer legal protection against sexual predation for an additional one million Canadian kids.

Let me repeat this concept so it is clear for Liberal members of Parliament who have not summoned the will to show leadership nor summoned the will to implement common sense into law. If we were to raise the age of consent to 16 we could offer, according to Statistics Canada, legal protection to roughly one million Canadians between the ages of 14 and 16 years. It would cost the state treasury nothing. It is simply a one word change. However, to some Liberals, changing a single word to safeguard a million children is just too hard, too politically correct and perhaps too obvious to grasp.

In 1987 the Progressive Conservative government of the day made one of the worst public policy decisions in recent years when it reduced the age of consent for sexual activity from 18 to 14 years of age. Both the provincial attorneys general of Canada and the Canadian Police Association are in favour of raising the age of consent to at least 16 years of age.

Over three years ago, in November 1999, after decades of seeing the terrible results of having lowered the age of sexual consent, a federal justice department paper recommended raising the age of consent from 14 years back up to 18. The report, commissioned by the government, which should have been read and should have been implemented, reads:

There will always be some people who seek out vulnerable children to satisfy their own dangerous impulses, frustrations or need to dominate, in spite of the law and the disapproval of the vast majority of Canadian society. Immature, inexperienced youngsters are unlikely to have adequate knowledge of the implications and consequences of sexual activity. The relatively low age [of consent] may allow pimps, for instance, to seduce young girls without fear of prosecution, with the intention of luring them into prostitution.

We heard the bogus argument from my Liberal colleague from York, who spoke prior to me, that if we were to raise the age of consent to 16 somehow parents of a 15 year old girl could prosecute a 17 year old boy, which is utterly nonsensical. No law ever goes to court unless a prosecutor decides to take it to court, and even if that were to happen, if a prosecutor were to set aside common sense, all that would have to happen is that we would write it into law. We could impose a law where if someone had sex with someone under the age of consent, we would not prosecute if the age between the two people was, say, less than five years. It would be a simple thing to do.

Unfortunately, like so many of the countless ideas, the reports I just quoted, the papers, the recommendations and issue discussion papers for which the Liberal government pays, this paper was dismissed. The fact that one million children who could be protected by the addition of a single word are being ignored is disturbing.

However the weaknesses of Bill C-20 go beyond this. If ignoring a million children or adding more defences for those who would sexually exploit children were not enough reasons for the government to call for better legislation, here is another one. In November 1999, as my colleagues have been arguing, John Robin Sharpe was charged with the possession of child pornography in violation of the Criminal Code. At his trial, Sharpe contested the constitutionality of section 163.1(4) by specifically stating that a definition of child pornography that included sketches or drawings that were based on the artist's imagination rather than on an actual child was going too far.

On June 30, 1999, the British Columbia Court of Appeal agreed with him. This was confirmed in January 2001 by the Supreme Court of Canada, which said:

Accordingly, s. 163.1(4) should be upheld on the basis that the definition of “child pornography” in s. 163.1 should be read as though it contained an exception for: (1) any written material or visual representation created by the accused alone, and held by the accused alone, exclusively for his or her own personal use; and (2) any visual recording, created by or depicting the accused, provided it does not depict unlawful sexual activity and is held by the accused exclusively for private use.

If the government were grounded in the common sense of everyday Canadians, bells would have been going off in the justice department the day the B.C. Court of Appeal said that there was a problem with the definition of child pornography.

Eighteen months later the Supreme Court of Canada agreed that there was a problem with the basic definition of child pornography. This happened roughly two years ago and the Liberal government still has not acted. What the government has done is broaden the defences contained in the Criminal Code, the section that aided and abetted John Robin Sharpe's perversion. That section currently reads:

...the court shall find the accused not guilty if the representation or written material that is alleged to constitute child pornography has artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose.

Thus, in the current Criminal Code there are four defences for people charged with possession of child pornography: if it has artistic merit, if it serves an educational purpose, if it serves a scientific purpose or if it serves a medical purpose.

Bill C-20 would completely rewrite subsection 163(1) of the Criminal Code. The new subsection would read:

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 and if the acts alleged do not extend beyond what serves the public good.

Instead of the four potential defences there would be just one, public good. It is therefore essential to find out what public good means. The very same Sharpe decision that told the Liberal government that there was a problem with the definition of child pornography, the Supreme Court of Canada examined the potential defence of public good.

At paragraph 70 of the decision Madam Justice McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, along with five other justices agreeing, wrote:

“Public good” has been interpreted as “necessary or advantageous to religion or morality, to the administration of justice, the pursuit of science, literature, or art, or other objects of general interest”.

So we have a majority of judges on the Supreme Court telling us that public good, which is what would be put into the law with Bill C-20, essentially has six elements. It has to be necessary or advantageous to any of the following: religion or morality, the administration of justice, the pursuit of science, the pursuit of literature, the pursuit of art, or the pursuit of other objects of general interest.

We have a Liberal member of Parliament applauding that. Yes, more power to the courts.

In Bill C-20 we have gone from four potential elements to six. The Liberal government has expanded the definitions and the reasons by which a Canadian may possess child pornography. Any bill that gives more ways to justify child pornography is a big step in the wrong direction, and yet the Liberal government celebrates the bill. The member from Hamilton just applauded to it, which includes dangerous ideas.

However, as we look at it things gets worse. We have lost the medical purpose as a defence and we have gained “the pursuit of other objects of general interest”. Most Canadians would agree that the pictures in Gray's Anatomy are not child pornography. At the very same time, I am not sure that our courts are ready to find out whether man-boy love documents could be said to be objects of general interest.

Quite simply, the bill cannot continue without dramatic amendment. As a Parliament we must stop merely passing legislation. We must begin taking meaningful steps to protect children from sexual predators.

Why? Because one of the worst things we do in this society is destroy the innocence of the young before their time. We do it in our culture, our television and in movies. We do it through our social and moral complacency. Now, sadly, we are doing it through our own laws by not using every and all known avenues to prevent the exploitation of kids.

The Liberal government, with all the tools of power at their disposal, has failed Canada's children yet again. Thus, it has provided yet one more reason why Canadians deserve a new government that understands the needs of Canada's most vulnerable. The Liberal government does not get it.

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate this issue today, not because any of us in this place enjoy talking about the issue of child pornography, but because it is important to bring some scrutiny to this legislation.

Child pornography in Canada is a scourge. I am concerned that Bill C-20 does not even come close to addressing some of the real issues that face people who have been the victims of child pornography or parents who are concerned about the impact of child pornography and the fact that it might put their own children at risk.

I want to start off by acknowledging the work of some of my colleagues who have done a fantastic job of bringing this problem to light. The members for Wild Rose, Calgary Northeast and Provencher have all provided meaningful and important input on the issue. They have helped raise the level of debate and raise the issue on the public agenda, because it is a serious issue.

Ever since that court decision some months ago that basically said that artistic merit could be allowed as a defence if somebody were being prosecuted for pornography, Canadians have been rightfully concerned about how well protected their children are. There are a number of things the government could have done if it were serious about addressing the issue.

Maybe the best example is to talk about the recent roundup of child pornography that occurred, not just in Canada but in the U.K., the United States and other places around the world. There were something in the range of 2,000 incidents of people downloading child pornography in Canada. However, because of the difficulty of sorting through the law as it stands now, only about 50 to 100 have been arrested and much less than that have been charged because the police must go through every single downloaded image to see whether or not it fits the standard of artistic merit.

That is true. My friend across the way is laughing, but it is true. It slows the process down unbelievably.

The fact that we have only been able to arrest 50 to 100 people tells us that the resources that are necessary for the police to address this issue have not been made available by the government.

The government talks about crime and dealing with it. I do not know how many times the issue of the firearms registry has to come up but I will raise it again. It is another example of where we have resources misplaced. We put all kinds of resources into a ridiculous registry which in and of itself will do nothing to deal with the issue of crime and in doing that will take away all kinds of resources that could have been used by the police to deal with issues like child pornography.

Every time legislators decide to spend a dollar on something that means that they decide not to spend it on a hundred other things. In this case, the government spent $1 billion on the firearms registry thereby guaranteeing that there would not be $1 billion available to deal with the issue of child pornography and to give police officers the resources they need to cure this scourge that has become epidemic in Canada.

People are vitally concerned about it. Ever since the Internet arose it has become easier and easier to spread child pornography. People are rightfully very concerned about this. There are so many aspects to this and I wish we all had more time to discuss it because it is a serious issue.

One of the things that concerns Canadians is that when the court decision was made in the case of John Robin Sharpe that allowed artistic merit as a defence of possessing child pornography, the failure of the government to act quickly was a sign that it was not going to act very forcefully in the end. They were right because Bill C-20 does not provide that protection to victims and to people who are potentially the targets of child pornographers because it leaves the definition of what is allowable so wide open one could drive a truck through it.

The public good, what can that possibly mean? I am afraid it will mean all kinds of things to people who have crafty lawyers and a little bit of money.

I can guarantee that we will see the public good challenged in the courts again, just like it was with the previous legislation. There is a very good chance of overturning all kinds of legitimate convictions under the laws surrounding child pornography because of that public good clause. The government is erring on the side, I am afraid to say, of child pornographers at the expense of innocent victims.

I do not understand, after the hundreds of thousands of names that appeared on petitions, how the government could not have received the message. Surely it understands that this is an issue that Canadians feel very strongly about. They are concerned that the Liberal government has caved in, that it did not steel its spine when it was time to do it to protect children.

A moment ago my friend for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam spoke and made a good point. He said that tied up with that whole issue is the issue of raising the age of consent. He pointed out that if we were to raise the age of consent in Canada from 14 to 16, we would bring an additional one million young people under the protection of the law. That is an important point.

In Canada today one has to be 16 to drive a car, but under the current law a 14 year old girl could have sex with a 45 year old pimp and it would be completely licit and within the bounds of the law. We cannot allow that to happen.

I was so disturbed when my party brought forward a motion in this place asking for the age of consent to be raised and permission to do that was denied by the Liberal government. It should have been part of Bill C-20. If the concern were to protect young people from predators that should have been part of this legislation. Sadly, it is not.

My colleague from Lethbridge and I went to the border crossing at Coutts a year ago. We were told that one of the big problems was sorting out the men who were coming into Canada to hook up with young people who they had lured over the Internet. This is a real problem that was brought to our attention.

I know the government has started to address that but it has only gone part way. It would not be near the problem if it would raise the age of consent to 16. If it were to do that then law enforcement officers would have another tool in their arsenal. Parents who are powerless to stop their 14 year old son or daughter from getting involved in something like that would have another tool to ensure that the lives of their children were not completely ruined. That is what it comes to.

I appeal to my friends across the way to consider carefully what the public is saying about this, what some of the government's own members are saying, and certainly what many members in the opposition are saying. This leaves the door wide open in a couple of different ways for predators of all kinds to choose their victims among Canada's citizenry.

For those reasons government members should err on the side of caution and vote against Bill C-20.

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4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Terrebonne--Blainville, Child Poverty; the hon. member for Acadie--Bathurst, Highway Infrastructure.

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4:25 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this debate because I feel the issue is very important. I appreciate the sincerity of the members opposite, even though I find myself somewhat at odds in certain areas with some of their remarks.

My biggest fear when the government came to look at this question of child pornography, particularly the section that was cited in the Sharpe case pertaining to artistic merit, was that it would go in the direction of closing down on the artistic merit clause and interfering with freedom of speech basically.

One of the issues with respect to child pornography is that it has been the subject of great literature in the past. Romeo and Juliet and Lolita are two famous works of art that spring to mind. The danger is, if we so hastily, in trying to put limitations on child pornography, put restrictions on literature and freedom of speech we make a very big mistake. I think even my colleagues opposite would agree that freedom of speech like the rule of law and democracy are principles that have to be kept at the highest level of protection, even if it means sometimes having to put up with shall we say very bad literature or a very bad intent in the creating of salacious material.

The problem with the artistic merit defence and what happened was that it left the courts with the dilemma of trying to decide what artistic merit was. That was an unacceptable situation. We can say that Shakespeare and Lolita are examples of art, but there are other pieces of literature, somebody's private attempt at a short story or something like that. Who is to say whether it has artistic merit, particularly if it is not receiving any kind of distribution or opportunity to be assessed by the public? It was a bad provision as a defence for something that could be deemed otherwise as child pornography.

The government's attempt now to say basically in a section that an item would not be considered child pornography if it were deemed to serve the public good is much broader. It allows a lot more latitude and I think we can trust the courts to make a distinction between something that is gratuitous child pornography or even worse, that has created the child pornography for profit. What we really want to do is get at those people who undertake child pornography to make money.

That raises another issue. I am not sure in what I read here whether these amendments deal with the question of where the written pornography, could be inscription, is not meant for distribution; that a person writes their own private thoughts. That raises some very interesting issues of privacy as a fundamental right, as the Privacy Commissioner is wont to say. Is something we write down, a drawing we make or words that we write, if it is never distributed beyond our desk or beyond our home and if it is not seen by other people, or if seen, only in a very private way, should that constitute an offence under law?

The government has inserted a new subsection that says “For the purpose of this section”, the child pornography section, “it is a question of law whether any written material or visual representation advocates or counsels sexual activity”.

I am not a lawyer but I would hope the question in law is whether the offensive material is meant for distribution or meant to be held privately, because in the end it is not the business of the state to try to correct the individual behaviour of people when that behaviour has no impact on the people around them.

If somebody is mentally sick, as indeed somebody who is a pedophile certainly is, the state should not punish that person simply because they are sick. It is when that sickness has an impact on other people, particularly children, that the state must intervene. That is the other thing I have observed here.

I am not sure that the amendment makes it clear that punishment for child pornography should always follow where there is a victim. This is why a visual representation of child pornography should always be against the law and should always be punishable. Where there is photographic representation of a child, or a woman for that matter, or any person in an abused situation, the possession of that photographic image is in fact condoning and co-operating and is party in the original crime. I would say that without any doubt that type of pornography is a crime.

The government addressed a very important issue and it is an issue that has not been mentioned so far. That is the business that has arisen since the Internet has come upon us where people use secret video cameras to record people in compromising positions. The government has added that as a criminal offence under the statute. It is so appalling that I even hate to discuss it, but these are people who take secret cameras out and try to portray people in sexual positions and then sell them on the Internet. The bill very explicitly goes after that, and that is a very positive thing.

The bill does one further thing. Pertaining to this business of getting secret visual recordings of people who are nude as part of an invasion of privacy, there is a subsection that states:

Every one commits an offence who, knowing that a recording was obtained by the commission of an offence under subsection (1), prints, publishes, distributes, circulates [that material]...

What has given rise to these secret recordings of people having private sexual activity has been the Internet. If I read this section correctly, it means Internet distributors of that material would be subject to the penalty under the law.

The difficulty is that I do not know how that could be policed because the Internet is international. It goes all around the world. It is just like child pornography. Where this type of criminal recording might come from is very difficult to determine. One would presume that if this law passes, it will enable authorities to approach the immediate servers who might carry this type of material and advise them that they are breaking the law if they do not try to prevent this from happening. I wish this section would also apply to child pornography in general and I am not sure it does. As one of the members opposite pointed out, a lot of this issue has arisen as a result of the Internet.

Any legislation that comes forward in the House that materially and substantially protects children or anyone else from being abused for profit so that voyeurs of any kind do not have the opportunity to pay money for people to be hurt, both mentally and physically, to satisfy their sick desires, is a step in the right direction. I applaud the government for being sensitive to the question of freedom of speech.

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4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is good to speak to this issue. It is one that is very important, as the last few months have testified in the House with the tabling of literally of hundreds of thousands of names of Canadians who are concerned with this issue. We support their concern.

The government had an opportunity with Bill C-20 to address some of those concerns but unfortunately once again the government has missed the boat.

If the bill was intended to safeguard children, it certainly has not done that. It is more complex, it is more cumbersome and that is something we see as a rule of thumb with the government. Any time a bill comes forward, instead of being simple and straightforward in getting to the task at hand, it becomes more complex, more cumbersome and more open to interpretation in the wrong way.

One thing the bill does not do is give the police forces or the prosecutors the tools that they need to deal with child pornography and to bring pedophiles and child pornographers to justice.

There needs to be a national strategy to deal with this and it needs to be supported with adequate resources. Right now this is not happening. Police officers are telling us that they do not have the time nor the resources to deal properly with this issue. The way that the evidence has to be prepared when a child pornographer is charged is that absolutely every image that person has in his or her possession has to be catalogued and presented in court. This ties up hard-working police departments for months and months at a time on one case while other cases are going unprosecuted.

The Liberal member who just spoke mentioned the material. Pedophiles use some of these writings and images to brainwash children to normalize them. No consideration should be given to the artistic merit of literature that has been handwritten and has been used to brainwash children so that they think child pornography and some attacks upon them are normal. That is how they use it. They have admitted it. I have heard the comments of a famous pedophile in B.C. who has said that it is exactly what they do with it. They use it to prey and lure children into their grasp.

We have spoken a lot about the artistic merit aspect, whether it is educational, scientific or for medical purposes and so on. Now the government has taken all this and put it into one broad defence called public good. This is not sufficient. We all know that when that aspect gets to court the lawyers will have a heyday with it which will just further contribute to the lack of protection for children.

First, there is no substantial difference between this defence and a previous defence, the community standards test, which was rendered ineffective by the Supreme Court in 1992, the Butler case. We spoke at length about that on many occasions in the House.

The community standards test, just like the public good defence, is concerned primarily with the risk of harm to individuals in society. There is no positive benefit in recycling laws that have already been discredited by the courts. Why would we bring forth a part of this bill that has already been discredited in the Butler case? It just will not stand up.

Second, it is clear that the artistic merit defence, while it has been eliminated on paper, may still apply in practice.The minister has simply renamed and repackaged the artistic merit defence under the public good. We stand here today and say that is what will happen. I believe in a few years time if this is not changed, then we will be able to stand here again and say “We told you so”.

However we should not have to do that. We have an opportunity now. If we cannot as legislators and elected officials come together, all parties, and do what is best for our children, then in my mind we have no business being here. Some of the comments which I heard the other day from members of the NDP party and previously from some of the members of the Liberal government are absolutely unbelievable and disgraceful. Any mind that could get around the fact that any kind of child pornography has some kind of public good or artistic merit is absolutely unbelievable.

On this bill, one of the things we have been after for years is to raise the age of consent. That was one of the issues that the hundreds of thousands of people who put their signatures on petitions wanted. They wanted the age of consent raised from 14 to 16, and some of them wanted it raised to 18. Is that too much to ask?

The argument about 14 and 15 year olds learning about the birds and the bees does not stand up. A clause could have been put in to do away with that really easily. As the member from Port Moody said earlier, that one issue of raising the age of consent from 14 to 16 would protect one million more children in this country, that one simple thing, yet there are still arguments about why that should not be done.

Those people are children and we are not doing our job to protect them. That is a shame.

We have brought this issue to the House. I myself brought in a private member's bill to amend the Criminal Code to give the police one more tool of confiscation upon conviction. That was picked up by the government and put into law. For that I am thankful.

We should not have to go around and around on these things. We should be able to look at legislation like this and come up with the absolute best shot right off the top without any further fiddling around.

Regarding the whole position of the trust or authority clause which has been put in, it is already against the law for a person in a position of trust, or with whom a young person between 14 and 18 is in a relationship of dependency, to be sexually involved with that young person. That is already in there and it is no big shakes to have that put in again.

I have listened to the arguments on the issue of the age of consent. I have heard members from all parties put forward their ideas. I cannot for the life of me understand why the members of the Liberal Party and some others do not want to do the right thing to protect children.

I see 14 to 16 year olds who come to Ottawa occasionally on different tours. Some of them are very mature and some of them are not, but they are all still children. We have to do what we can to protect them at all times.

Regarding the issue of sentencing, the maximum sentences were raised. That is always something that looks good, that the maximum sentence will be raised to 25 years. Well big deal, the maximum sentence is never given out. It is the minimum sentences that need to be enforced. Staying at home and being locked up on the weekends away from the community is not enough. A message has to be sent to pornographers that if they prey upon children, they will go to jail for a long enough time to make them think about what they have done.

We know that there is recidivism by pornographers. They are almost incurable, and still we put them under house arrest. It is the minimum sentence that needs to be addressed, not the maximum. Certainly in extreme cases the maximum sentences should be severe, but let us look at the other end to ensure that the minimum sentences are enough to deter pedophiles and pornographers, those animals that prey upon our children.

To conclude, I want to restate that when it comes to protecting our children, surely we as legislators and elected officials looking at the most vulnerable in our society can all work together, do it now, put everything else aside until we have this one thing right in this country. Let us bring in some legislation which truly does that. If we cannot do that, we might as well stand back, wave the white flag and give up.

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4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, to enter into the debate on a subject like this one is both gratifying and frightening. It is almost repugnant because the subject matter is such that one would not want to be involved in this kind of activity.

I remember when my good colleague presented to us in caucus and to a number of members in the House some video material that had been collected by the police in Toronto. He showed us what some of the content of child pornography is. It is the most repulsive, the most repugnant stuff that anybody could ever portray.

We have here a proposed law, Bill C-20. It purports to deal with the issue of what is child pornography and what the defences are with regard to child pornography.

Much has been made today about the substitution of “public good” for the words “artistic merit”. It is almost as if something very substantive has now taken place, that we have somehow brought into being something that is much clearer to understand and much easier to defend in court than artistic merit would be. Here we have public good as being a very good thing and much clearer than anything else.

I want to draw attention to something that has happened in terms of the definition. I want to put this in the context of what the proposed law actually says. Subclause 7(2), which amends subsection 163.1(6) of the Criminal Code, states:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the acts that are alleged to constitute the offence, or if the material related to those acts that is alleged to contain child pornography, serve the public good and do not extend beyond what serves the public good.

Notice what happens right after that in subsection 163.1(7)(b). I want to read it into the record:

For the purposes of this section,

(b) it is a question of law whether an act or any material related to an act serves the public good and whether there is evidence that the act alleged or the material goes beyond what serves the public good--

That is a question of law. It goes on:

--but it is a question of fact whether the act or the material does or does not extend beyond what serves the public good;

I am sure all my colleagues understand the difference between those two things as does everyone listening today. We understand clearly what that means.

I suggest that everyone does not know what that means. It seems to me that this is the grist for judges and lawyers to be debating from now until kingdom come or until the law is changed again to define clearly what it being talked about.

It is a question of law or a question of fact and the difference between the two is so difficult. A lawyer or technocrat would look at it and say what is meant by it and another lawyer would say it meant something else. The argument would carry on until the time, the money, or both were exhausted by the defenders or the prosecutors.

Alex MacDonald, who was the attorney general for the province of British Columbia, said that Canada does not have a justice system; we have a legal system. If there was ever an example of something that was made to order for a legal system, it is that clause of the bill.

What has this bill really contributed to the understanding and the protection of children? It has confused the issue. It has not clarified anything, yet one of the purposes of the bill is to clarify both what is meant by pornography and what is meant by the defences.

As the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam said so clearly, if there is anything in terms of the general interpretation of public good, we have added more elements to the public good than would ordinarily constitute artistic merit.

What have we done? There are at least two levels on which we can debate this thing backwards and forwards and find out it is no clearer today than it was before.

There is something far more significant than the technicalities. It has to do with our responsibility as legislators, as adults, as fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters of the children around us. What is our major job? The fundamental and most significant activity we are involved with is to teach our children, the next generation, the difference between right and wrong, to give them an understanding of ethics.

Recently in Switzerland CEOs from around the world got together and talked about what will be the most significant issues in the coming years in terms of business around the world. After many days of deliberation they came to the conclusion that the fundamental concern of businesses over the next while will be ethics, the difference between what is right and what is wrong and to apply that in a practical sense in the everyday world.

If business people have recognized that ethics is important, how much more the case for us as legislators to recognize that we ought to be ethical and set the example and indicate what is right and what is wrong.

To write in the bill what is the public good and there is no understanding of what is right and what is wrong in the first instance, how could it ever be clear what the public good was all about?

Over 300,000 people have said one of the elements of the public good, one of the things that they believe is wrong is child pornography, the exploitation of children for sexual purposes by those who are older and should know better. The people of Canada have said something. They have said it very clearly. They have said it unequivocally. They have been absolutely clear.

Could it be that the government listened and said that yes, it had to do something but it really did not want to change anything substantially so it decided simply to change “artistic merit” to “public good” in order to tell the people that it did something. And the government did something. It replaced two words with two other words. What is the substantial difference? Nothing.

What has happened to our young people? What direction did they receive? What guidance has the government given to young parents who are trying to teach their youngsters between what is right and what is wrong? None.

All of us in the House need to recognize that our primary responsibility is to create laws that are clear, that are understood by all concerned and that tell clearly the difference between what is right and what is wrong. The bill falls far short of that mark.

We talked about the age of sexual consent. We on this side of the House have been advocating that it should be raised from 14 years to 16 years.

I would like to raise other questions. How is it possible that in our society we can say that one has to be at least 18 years old to make a decision about who should help run this country, but it is perfectly all right for one to determine the future of one's life in terms of being pregnant or not pregnant as far as women are concerned? How is it possible that it is all right for older men to impregnate younger women at the age of 14 if they say yes, but there is no way that they are able to vote for somebody unless they are 18 years old? What kind of logic is that? What kind of sense does that make?

I ask the government to reconsider very seriously what it has really done to help the people of Canada and particularly for the protection of young children by this piece of legislation. The government has not done anything to help us.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to injustice, the wisest man in the world offered these words “When those of us are as outraged as those who have been victimized then justice will be achieved”. That was said by King Solomon.

We are reaching a point where there is an outrage over the state's lack of ability to deal with issues when it comes to the protection of children. A lot of it will strike home if it gets closer to individuals here, when our children or our relative's children actually are assaulted. Maybe we will be as outraged as we should be to see that justice is done.

Today in the House this party, and I know the Conservative Party, tabled over 52,000 signatures on petitions dealing with the protection of children, whether they were for tougher sentences on pedophiles, a registry or legislation that would keep pedophiles inside until their trial, we went on and on with a number of issues that dealt with the protection of children. That is just a handful of people who really feel this way in the House.

One individual who spoke for the Bloc said that rehabilitation was sufficient, that the bill spoken to earlier in private members' business was not the right one in their view and that certain acts did not justify life in prison. Obviously the other members of the Bloc share that viewpoint because he spoke in the fashion that he represented the viewpoint of that particular political party. I do not think that view is so far away from what even the majority of Liberals sitting over there believe. I know there are some who do not but a majority of them do.

Tough legislation is considered, on the Bloc side at least, as the private member's bill that was presented earlier and debated, as an exaggerated one. It is against the spirit of the bill.

What is the spirit of the bill? The spirit of the bill should be exactly as outlined, that we want to protect children. Unfortunately, I do not believe that is the spirit over on that side. The Liberals do not understand, acknowledge or at least articulate that the spirit of the bill is to protect children. It just does not seem to happen.

The justice minister has made a great deal of noise about the protection of children. He deserves congratulations for having been relatively successful at using the bill to distract Canadians from what has become a total failure on the part of the government to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

Over the past three years the government has had an opportunity to respond to the terrible threats to our children. I will only go back three years since that was the beginning of the situation surrounding John Robin Sharpe, a name now synonymous with child pornography in Canada.

Is it any wonder that there is a rising level of concern by individuals and organizations that want to see something more substantive happen. The Canadian Justice Foundation, Mad Mothers Against Pedophiles, the Canadian Alliance and the police associations have waited anxiously for the government to respond to the outrage with some swiftness and strength and to invoke the notwithstanding clause against, for instance, Sharpe. We demanded nothing more than the protection of children from sexual predators. That was not a lot to ask.

We waited for the federal government to put this obscene court ruling into the dustbin and reaffirm that there was no place in Canada for child sexual abuse or child pornography. We actually did see a glimmer of hope when the justice minister announced that he would be tabling this bill and called it “a new law to protect children”. We were also promised a change to the ridiculously low age of consent which currently allows 40 year old adults to have sex with 14 year old children. As it turns out, this was all false hope.

Let us be clear about this. The bill would not protect children. The bill would at best maintain the unacceptable status quo and, at worst, be unenforceable. This mean that the issues of child porn and sex with minors will become fixtures in the Canadian agenda for years to come. I can see all kinds of court litigation now. We will be employing a bevy of lawyers to fight this issue just on the child porn case alone. This bill on child protection was designed by someone who either does not understand the courts and law enforcement or who understands both and does not intend to protect children at all.

The following are the reasons. First is the age of consent. Rather than simply raising the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age, which is the international average, and creating an exception for people of almost the same age, the bill would allow adults to have sex with 14 and 15 year olds unless the adult is in a “position of authority”. Parents of 14 year olds to whom I have spoken have shaken their heads at this. Police forces across Canada will shudder at what it means because it will force police to determine whether or not an adult who is sexually using a 14 or 15 year old is in a position of power over that child. The police have to decide that.

I was a police officer for years. I can tell the House that this clause is not only of no use to the police but it will have the perverse effect of dissuading police from even investigating cases of sex with 14 year olds. Why? It is because proving a position of power is vague, requires legal interpretation and is totally open to challenge, not to mention that it is downright stupid.

What 40 year old is not in a position of power when having sex with a 14 year old? Does no one in government have children? It boggles my mind that they would even address, embrace or defend this particular bill, but they have just on that point alone. The determination of whether an adult is in a position of power would be turned over to the lawyers and the courts, the same courts that ruled that John Robin Sharpe had a right to possess child porn.

Under this bill, unless a 40 year old man is a teacher, a priest or a Boy Scout leader, he would have every right to seduce and have sex with any 14 year old that he finds on the street, next door or on the Internet.

I have found that molesters study the law as carefully as lawyers and they will quickly realize that this new law, if passed, will create a wide open door for legal sex with children. All one has to do is look at the activities of Mr. Sharpe or Mr. Toft, and I should not even address them as mister, both pedophiles. They are already beating that drum out there in the public.

Regarding child pornography, the proposed new law would actually create an enormous opportunity for current and would-be child pornographers. It would allow an exception to the ban on child porn where pornographers can demonstrate some public good in their work.

As we have seen with John Robin Sharpe and his backers, like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, there is no shortage of people willing to challenge the law. Canadians should be prepared for challenge after challenge that will thrust the vilest and most hateful child porn out into the public arena and make celebrities of its authors.

There is so much more to discuss in the bill and its potential of doing continued harm that I could be here all night. I conclude my presentation at this point.

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5:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased on this occasion to speak to a matter that unfortunately has captured the attention of the public for a number of years and to go on the record with respect to Bill C-20, a bill that concerns a number of us.

Bill C-20, the Liberal answer to the John Robin Sharpe case, has been too long in the making and, I am fearful, does not go far enough in alleviating the inexcusable production of child pornography. I will preface the bulk of my comments by saying that there are some favourable aspects of the legislation and, under close scrutiny by the justice committee, they will no doubt prove beneficial.

When we listen to people discussing the Sharpe case quite often we hear them say that the justice system is at fault and that judges do not give harsh enough punishments.

The justice system can only implement the legislation that is made right here. We can argue interpretation and, like all of us, various judges interpret whatever they read in different ways perhaps. However, clear cut, pointed, specific legislation narrows their ability to interpret. When dealing with something like child pornography, the legislation should be specific so no judge anywhere in the land would have the ability to interpret it to ease or perhaps completely eliminate dealing with perpetrators of this offence.

With regard to sentencing and how much time somebody should get for their involvement in cases such as child pornography, anybody in Canada who realizes what this is all about will agree that the punishment has to be pointed and severe so it will be a deterrent if other things do not work.

People might say that a 10 year sentence is a long time for people who have child pornography in their possession but they should think about how long the victims suffered. It is not a 10 year sentence for some child who was involved or used. It is a lifetime sentence in most cases.

We in the House are only representatives of the people who put us here. Legislation is really developed by the people of Canada, and we in this place operate under legislation. They send us here as their representatives to do what they wish, not what we ourselves want to do in the House. Unfortunately, that happens more often than not, especially when the people sent here think they know more than the people who sent them and make laws and rules to suit themselves rather than the majority of the people in the country. Fortunately, they usually do not come back here, Unfortunately, they can do a lot of damage while they are here.

However, while we are here, we have an opportunity with this legislation, through committee and through amendments, to create the type of legislation that will deal with this horrendous problem.

As the universe changes and as the technological world expands, we understand the opportunities available to individuals to take advantage of the young and innocent in our society. We also become more conscious ourselves through such opportunities to see how often it is really happening.

When a few years ago we would hear of somebody involved with child pornography, we would think it was an isolated case and it was terrible, but when we look at the numbers of people who are charged or suspected, and when the police, whose hands are tied because they themselves do not have the ability or the numbers to do the research and the enforcement necessary in cases like these, tell us they are just scraping the surface, it is scary.

What can we do? We can argue that government has to put more resources into our police forces across the country, which is certainly true. We have to put more funding into research and we have to put more funding into justice in general. But what we can do very easily here is use our common sense to collectively develop the type of legislation that first, will deal with the problem, and second, will prevent a second Sharpe case from occurring because the legislation will be direct, so that no justice anywhere in the country can interpret it in a way that will be to the benefit of the person who is the abuser rather than the person who is abused.

We can do our part. When we have a piece of legislation as important as this, we would be remiss if we did not do so.