Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today to debate the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
This report raised a number of debates in committee, but basically, it can be summarized by the following text:
Therefore, be it resolved that this Committee, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, recommends that the House of Commons do not proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts) and that the Chair present the report to the House.
Before I explain what led the committee to adopt the report, I would first like to explain what motivated me, as a parliamentarian, to introduce Bill C-327. Why did I introduce this bill? I would remind the House that, in November 1992, a 13-year-old girl by the name of Virginie Larivière presented a petition signed by 1.5 million Canadians to the Canadian government, calling for legislation to reduce violence on television.
At the time, the images spoke volumes. The young girl presented the Conservative government, headed by Brian Mulroney, with a proper petition signed by 1.5 million Canadians. What did the government do then? It decided to accept a voluntary code governing violence on television, to trust radio and television broadcasters. Television broadcasters who signed on to the code committed to not broadcasting programs with scenes of gratuitous violence, to not exposing children to inappropriate programs, and to informing viewers of the content of the programs they chose to watch.
The voluntary code adopted by television broadcasters was the subject of an in-depth study at the time by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. In June 1993, the committee determined that if the voluntary approach proposed to television broadcasters did not work—and it was failing to achieve the goal of reducing violence on television—Parliament should seriously consider legislation.
Now, 15 years later, 15 years after the voluntary code for television broadcasters was introduced, where are we?
The Université de Laval's media studies centre looked at this issue. The latest study available was released in 2004. The media studies centre no longer has the funding to do its work because the federal government decided to cut funding for researchers studying and analyzing programming. Nevertheless, the study found that over 10 years, violence had increased by 286%, 81% of depictions of violence on television were broadcast before 9 p.m., not after peak viewing hours for children, and 29% of movie violence was psychological in nature.
Over the past few years, violence on television has changed. We are seeing proportionally less physical violence and more psychological violence. Numerous studies have shown that the violence to which our children are regularly exposed in movies, and sometimes even in television dramas, influences their behaviour.
The report by Dr. Rudel-Tessier as a result of her coroner's inquest into the death of an 11-year-old boy on December 31, 2005, is still fresh in people's minds. In her report, the coroner described Simon's story.
—Simon [was] a lively, healthy boy with a bit of a sense of adventure. On December 30, 2005, at around 7:00 p.m., Simon and his father decided to watch the movie The Patriot on television.
As the report indicates:
The plans of Simon and his father to watch the movie together changed when an unexpected visitor arrived. The child started to watch the movie alone, and his father promised that he would come and join him. At around 8:10 p.m., the boy was found hanging from the ceiling with The Patriot still playing on the television. The movie was rated “13 and over with violence” in Canada.
According to the coroner [Dr. Rudel-Tessier], there was nothing to indicate that the boy had committed suicide. She said that he had almost certainly been trying to play out a scene from the film shown at 7:34 p.m. where the hero's oldest son is brought by soldiers to be hung from a tree. According to the coroner, Simon may also have been influenced by another scene, which was shown at 8:01 p.m.
Finally, she questioned whether the film should have been shown in the evening, at 7:00 p.m. This example proves that we must establish regulations to reduce violence on television. The voluntary code did not stop a major network from broadcasting Striking Distance, on August 7, 2007, at 8 p.m.; it is rated “18 years and over with violence and coarse language.” Another movie, Cradle 2 The Grave , was shown on September 12, 2007 at 8 p.m.; it is rated “14 years and over with scenes of violence and coarse language.” I believe it is time to take action.
I would remind members that, in June 1993, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Communications and Culture concluded that the self-regulation approach needed to be given a chance. I quote:
However, the committee did agree that if that approach did not work, legislation would need to be considered.
That is the spirit behind Bill C-327. The bill before you today would require the CRTC to adopt regulations to limit—and I emphasize, to limit—and not to prohibit violence on television; to monitor compliance by broadcast licence holders with their obligations concerning violence; to sanction those that violate the rules; and to hold hearings every five years to assess the results of this approach.
The attitude of the government and the Liberal Party of Canada, who refused to study the amendments proposed by the NDP that would improve the bill, is deplorable. In my opinion, in a democratic debate, when a bill is studied by a parliamentary committee, members on the committee must have the opportunity to present and consider amendments.
I would like to thank the NDP member who will speak today for deciding to work on this bill. I would like to say today that it is important and that we will vote—