Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in the debate on the motion to concur in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, which is a recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).
As we have heard, Bill C-327 was tabled by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie in response to a petition of over 1.5 million Canadians, a petition spearheaded and headed by Virginie Larivière, a 13-year-old girl who was concerned about the role of television violence in the rape and murder of her younger sister. She gathered those petitions and presented them to the Mulroney government back a number of years ago.
The petition expressed the concern of over a million Canadians about the effects of violence on television in our society. This is clearly a very strong opinion about the circumstances and that issue. Members of Parliament needed to take that expression of concern very seriously. That is exactly what the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie did when he proposed this private member's bill. He did absolutely the right thing in putting forward a serious attempt to address that issue raised by so many Canadians.
Unfortunately, there were problems identified with the bill as proposed. The most serious problem members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage faced, after listening to testimony from many organizations and individuals, was that many witnesses saw this bill as giving the CRTC the power to censor television programing in Canada. This was seen a inappropriate by most of the witnesses and the members of the committee. It was a power that the CRTC should not have in the opinion of most of us, and I agree.
I have heard the concerns expressed around censorship and the freedom of cultural expression. Many of those have been raised recently regarding the Canadian film and video tax credit in the provisions of Bill C-10, which include a very broad possibility of the Minister of Canadian Heritage using guidelines to deny film and video tax credit based on personal sensibilities about what is appropriate film or video production in Canada. We have seen a great outcry from the cultural and arts community about that aspect of the bill.
There were also concerns that disputed some of the evidence presented in support of Bill C-327, including the way the numbers were used to compare the number of acts of violence in the Laval study, which my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has cited. It was also clear that television violence was only one source of violence today that Canadians and children faced. The Internet and video games were also very major sources of very violent programming and violence to which children and adults were exposed.
Therefore, for those reasons, I support the concurrence motion that we should not proceed with Bill C-327 as it was originally presented and as it cleared the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
However, I want to point out that it became clear to me, as we worked on the bill in committee, there was the possibility for amending it to fully remove the censorship provisions and instead stress the further development of broadcast codes and media literacy education commitments. It was clear there were serious concerns in Canadian society related to violence on television and its effect on adults and children in our society.
It also became clear that media literacy education was an important approach to dealing with the concerns, an approach that deserved stronger support from government, the CRTC and broadcasters. Many organizations do that excellent work, and we heard from quite a number of them. We should ensure there is expanded access by adults, children, parents and educators to the work on media literacy and media awareness done by those organizations.
It also became clear that the development by broadcasters of codes of ethics, broadcast codes, programming standards, classification systems and related complaint mechanisms should be enshrined in the Broadcasting Act. I appreciate that private broadcasters have developed those codes, voluntarily originally. Now through the auspices of the CRTC it is more mandatory, but they belong in the Broadcasting Act.
We should also put into the act that such codes should be developed in consultation with government, the CRTC, cultural workers, media unions, media literacy and media awareness organizations, advocacy groups and interested individuals, among others, that such codes and classification systems should be formally reviewed every five years, comprehensively, independently and publicly, and that further analysis of the connections between the depiction of violence and violence in society should be part of the mandate of the CRTC and broadcasters, as should media literacy education and media awareness education for Canadians of all ages.
I proposed amendments that would do exactly those things, that would add all those aspects to Bill C-327 as originally proposed. I had an indication from the chair that my amendments would be seen as being in order.
I also had clear support for my amendments from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, one of the groups that most clearly stated its concern and its opposition to the original bill because of what it saw as censorship provisions in the bill. It supported my amendments because it was clear that I had removed effectively all the censorship provisions from the bill.
Sadly, the Conservatives and Liberals on the committee would not even consider these amendments and then decided to recommend that the bill be abandoned without any discussion or debate on the amendments, which I had worked on, proposed and brought to the committee.
That was a serious disappointment. When we have the opportunity to consider private members' legislation at committee, we should go the whole way on that consideration. When members bring forward amendments to legislation before a committee, the committee should hear those amendments and have discussion on them. Sadly, that was short-circuited by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in this regard.
I would not have been able to support Bill C-327 as it was originally proposed and now as it returns to the House. That is why I support the motion before us today that the bill be abandoned, that we not proceed with the bill.
However, there was something valuable in the proposal from the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. We could have rescued the bill and found in it, with some amendments such as the ones I proposed, something that would be worthwhile for Canadians and that would serve us well in the long run, something that merited more discussion. We should have debated it more thoroughly in committee at the end of our considerations.
However, given now that the only option before us is the original form of the bill, sadly I have to concur with the full committee that we should not proceed with the legislation, given the very serious problems.