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House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.

Topics

Official Languages ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division is deferred to Wednesday, May 14, just before the time set aside for the consideration of private members' business.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2008 / 6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

moved that the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts)), presented on Wednesday, April 9, be concurred in.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

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—

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage presented April 9, 2008 should be accepted. The report recommends that the House not proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

Violence in society is an issue of profound concern to every Canadian and is of concern to this government in particular.

First, I do want to thank the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his efforts to bring this bill before Parliament, not just in this session, but also in previous sessions.

The issue of violence in society has been a priority for this government. We continue to address it through initiatives to tackle crime. The age of protection, the age of sexual consent, has been raised from 14 to 16. People accused of gun crimes must now show why they should be on the streets while awaiting trial. There are tough new mandatory minimum penalties for those who commit serious gun crimes.

The tabling of Bill C-327 gave us an opportunity to have a constructive dialogue and to consider our accomplishments in Canada in limiting violence on television and in other media, particularly as it concerns children. It also gave the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage the opportunity to hear from a diverse group of witnesses and gain a better understanding of the best approach to address the issue.

Bill C-327 would amend the Broadcasting Act to add as a policy objective “to contribute to solving the problem of violence in society by reducing violence in the programming offered to the public, including children”, and would mandate the CRTC to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes.

During the second reading debate, the government explained that the Broadcasting Act already contains the necessary policy objectives and regulatory powers for the CRTC to deal with the issue of violence in broadcasting. It already makes broadcasters responsible for the programs they air and requires their programming to be of high standard.

The Broadcasting Act sets out a number of objectives for the broadcasting system. Central among these objectives is that the system should serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada.

The Broadcasting Act also provides that all persons who are licensed to broadcast programs on television have a responsibility for what they air and that all programming originated by broadcasting undertakings should be of high standard.

Furthermore, the act states that the broadcasting system should encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity. In this regard the respect for the freedom of expression of creators and the provision of choice for Canadian audiences are key principles.

Our approach to the reduction of violence in television is one that balances freedom of expression and regulation where necessary, but not necessarily one of increased regulation.

We have systems and industry codes in place, including a code on violence that upholds societal norms of decency and integrity. The current approach gives Canadians the tools to make informed program choices for themselves and their families.

Canadians who have concerns over programming can make a complaint with the CRTC or the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an independent non-governmental organization which administers programming standards, including the code on violence. Both the CRTC and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council have a rigorous review process in place to investigate complaints.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank members of the committee who worked on this private member's bill, especially for taking time to hear from more than a dozen witnesses and for conducting such a thorough review of the bill.

Violence on television is a sensitive issue and one that concerns us all. The committee heard from key representatives from the CRTC, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, media literacy organizations, teacher organizations, as well as advocacy and civil liberty groups. The committee also heard from children ranging in age who talked openly and honestly about their television viewing habits and their use of the Internet.

The key question we ask ourselves is this: will Bill C-327 achieve the goal of reducing violence in society, particularly as it relates to children?

What we found is that although there was broad support for the goal of reducing violence in society, almost all of the witnesses felt that Bill C-327 was not the right means for achieving that goal. Almost all believed that the regulatory measures contemplated by the bill would not be effective.

We heard that the CRTC already has the powers to make regulations concerning broadcasting of violent scenes and it has done so by requiring as a condition of license that broadcasters adhere to codes regarding violence on television. These codes were developed by the industry in consultation with Canadians and are designed to protect viewers from content they may find to not be to their wishes.

We also heard that the number of complaints concerning violent programming is generally low. From many of the witnesses, we heard that they were concerned with the potential for violations of free expression by the delegation to the CRTC of the power to make regulations respecting broadcasting violent content. We were reminded that Bill C-327 is directed toward the public, not exclusively toward children.

Some witnesses also talked about the difficulty in identifying the root cause of violent behaviour. As evidenced in the preamble, the bill presupposes a relationship between violence on television and violence in society.

However, whether there is a clear causal link between the two remains very much in dispute. There are everyday realities that we as a society must face, one being that we live in a society that unfortunately experiences violence.

The committee heard from many witnesses about the need for education, media literacy and parental engagement. They explained that media education and the fostering of media literacy skills in young people are key elements in any effective strategy to teach children how to be critical and thoughtful about the media they consume.

In contrast, we heard directly from children that they watch virtually anything they want, whether it is on television or the Internet. They questioned the effectiveness of wanting to regulate what they watch on television. With modern technology such as satellite television, digital cable and the Internet, they are able to access content from across Canada and the United States and, for that matter, all over the world.

The proposed bill has a limited ability to deal with these other potential sources of violent content. Therefore, we need to focus on encouraging parents to become more involved in the media choices their children make. We learned that kids and adolescents whose parents supervise their TV viewing and Internet usage are more likely to be aware of the negative impact of media violence.

I must tell members that just today the CRTC appeared before the standing committee to discuss administrative money penalties in testimony today. In regard to these AMPs, as they are known, we are now at the beginning of a process in which the committee is going to undertake to assist in giving a report on the efficacy and advisability of AMPs. The minister is looking forward to that report from the committee.

We are all deeply committed to the safety of our children and want less violence in our society. I do thank the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for bringing this issue forward. However, witnesses convinced the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that Bill C-327 is the wrong means to achieve the goal and would not serve Canadians in the long term.

I would therefore at this time encourage all members to accept the report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage which recommends that the House of Commons not proceed further with Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament and a father of two young children aged 12 and 15, I want to begin by commending and congratulating my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie on his efforts. This is a typical case of a commendable initiative that does not meet the required goals in practice. A number of reasons have been given, and I agree with them. In any event, the Liberal Party of Canada will accept this report for all the reasons that have already been given.

We are parliamentarians. The testimony we have heard indicates that everyone agrees with the principle as such. We therefore need to work together to set guidelines that will enable us to reduce violence and help our young people grow and develop in a healthy environment.

We are already debating Bill C-10 with regard to film production. There will be a debate on freedom of expression, control and so on. Looking strictly at Bill C-327, we can see that it is a commendable initiative whose goals were appropriate and certainly relevant. However, these goals would not be achieved in practice.

I also agree that we should have agencies such as the CRTC and self-regulation. Our committee is working very hard to give the CRTC the necessary tools and to give it more teeth, making a cause and effect link to ensure that when there are abuses or deficiencies on the part of the broadcasters, there can be, through the Broadcasting Act, cause and effect links and actions taken accordingly.

Unfortunately, this bill, in light of everything we have done, is becoming obsolete. That is why, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1 we recommended that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill. That does not mean that nothing was done, but that exhaustive work had already been done.

I will not get into a political debate on the Conservatives, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc. All of us are either good parents or extremely aware of the relevance and importance of reducing violence. I am one of those who believes that it is not our role to regulate. That would lead us to a society where there is room for the arbitrary and possible censorship. How far will this go? I agree that there needs to be some structure and that we need to give agencies such as the CRTC the necessary tools to move from talk to action.

The work was comprehensive in scope. The member did a fine job, and he will be disappointed today. It is sad when a private member's bill does not pass. However, I would like to congratulate him because he contributed to moving this issue forward. He can tell his constituents and little Virginie Larivière that he did his job well, and that we all worked on this. Quite often, when our work entails creating legislation, we can have laudable objectives and present excellent proposals but, in terms of implementation, the situation as a whole must also be taken into consideration. Perhaps this is not the best approach. We did not move backwards, however. We continue to move forward. All of the members from the various parties contributed based on their own values and experiences. They shared their points of view.

It is also important to take time to read the whereas clauses.

Thus, we can see that we are all aiming at the same goal. I think that putting in all those “whereas” clauses provides the proper environment so people can understand that we have been doing our homework and that we are aiming at the same goal. However, as for the application itself, which is the legislation, we felt that in our case the Liberal Party of Canada could not proceed further.

We believe, and it is unanimous, in supporting freedom of expression, including everything regarding the media, film and television. As a start, it is important to talk about that.

Also, we believe that it is important to note the number of witnesses that came before the committee. It is not that we are deciding this in a partisan way. We have been doing our homework. We took the time to listen to the witnesses, including the children who came to tell us in their own way, with their own words, through their own experience, and with their own expertise what the application of Bill C-327 means. I think that is important to mention. I am a parent myself. There is always a need to relate that goal to education, to media literacy and clearly to parental engagement.

It was interesting when we had a little turmoil in putting together the motion, but everyone had the opportunity to put forward their words and explain clearly what they meant. I think the motion itself reflects that we have been doing a great job among ourselves.

Therefore, I truly believe that because it is the wrong means to achieve the goal, and because we believe in the goal, the Liberal Party of Canada, through Standing Order 97.1, will recommend that the House of Commons not proceed further with Bill C-327.

For all of these reasons, and for the work done by all of the members, I must say that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage did a fine job. I did not feel a blind partisanship as I have felt in other committees. We work well in that way. Again, I congratulate my Bloc Québécois colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, and I would like to thank all of my colleagues. It is clear that we must accept this report as presented.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

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.

We were very aware in the committee of that context of Bill C-10 and it was clear that we could not proceed with the provisions of Bill C-327 as they were presented.

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.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to add my voice to the debate on the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The report essentially recommends that the House not proceed further with Bill C-327.

Bill C-327 proposes to introduce tougher regulations to regulate violence in television broadcasts. I will read the salient portion of the bill, which happens to be section 10.1(1). It states:

The Commission shall make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes, including those contained in programs intended for persons under the age of 12 years.

Although this was promoted as a bill that would protect children against TV violence, the actual wording within the legislation was much broader than that. It would give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the power to institute regulations that would essentially censor violent programs on television.

Members of committee devoted a great deal of time to hearing from witnesses on the issue of media violence. Almost without exception, they gave the same clear message, and that was while well intentioned, the bill was not the right vehicle to address violence on television. In fact, it just simply was not going to work.

I want to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for bringing the bill forward. I share his underlying motives in addressing this issue. We all want to see violence on television decrease, especially where it relates to children's programming.

When I first heard about the bill, my first response was that I could support it. Why would anyone not support a reduction in violence in children's programming on television, except perhaps those who profit from it? However, as I looked more closely at the legislation, I realized it was deeply flawed.

What would the bill do? As I mentioned, it would give the CRTC broad new regulatory authority to make regulations on violent programming on television.

What did the committee determine after it had listened to the witnesses? The witnesses gave evidence that even though studies showed there was a connection between TV violence and the acting out of violent acts in society, there was a similar body of evidence that seemed to contradict it. In other words, the jury is still out as to whether there is a connection between TV violence and violence in our society. I tend to agree with those who say there is a connection, but the evidence before committee was not clear. It was ambiguous.

Some witnesses also raised the issue of censorship. The proponent of the bill went to great lengths to try to show that this was not about censorship, but virtually every witness who appeared before us, when directly asked by myself and others on the committee, said that it was a form of censorship.

Some of the concerns they raised centred around where would we stop. Are we no longer allowed to see boxing on TV, or programs such as 24, or Prison Break or even ice hockey, because ice hockey sometimes has fights? Is that too violent? We get into that whole discussion.

We already have restrictions on violence in Canada. The Criminal Code outlines what types of violent acts shown in broadcast programs are unacceptable. Beyond that, the CRTC has not interfered in what is shown on TV because TV broadcasters themselves have adopted their own code and standards of broadcasting, which address violence on TV.

We see warnings on TV telling viewers that a violent program is coming up, or the program is going to include adult content. Those warnings are there as a result of the industry agreeing to comply with its own code. There are those who say that is only a voluntary set of standards. In fact, it is not voluntary, even though the word voluntary is used. The conditions of licence require broadcasters to comply with that code.

What is really remarkable is that we did something in committee that we do not do too often. We invited children to address us and to share their views on television violence. They came up with some interesting information. First, they talked about the changing face of media, such things as the Internet, podcasting and personal video recorders. These are technologies that allow children and adults to view broadcast material in many different ways. They also talked about the multichannel universe, the 500 channel universe, where someone in Vancouver could be watching television during family hour, say at 7 o'clock in the evening, and they could be watching a program that is being broadcast in eastern Canada during hours when adult programming would be shown.

They also talked about the V-chip and, remarkably, none of the children at the committee said that their parents had ever invested or installed a V-chip on their televisions. They also talked about how little parental supervision there really was over what they watched on TV or viewed on the Internet.

When we collectively took the information that came from the witnesses, there was a very clear consensus that further regulation and censorship of TV would not work. It was not that there are limitations that might be suitable. The problem is that with a changing technological environment, those limitations are almost useless, because children view their programming in many different ways that are not subject to restrictions.

We also heard that when parents closely supervise what their children watch on TV, those children give more thought about the programs they watch. I can speak from personal experience. I am the father of four daughters. As they were growing up, we were very involved in their lives. We would not allow them to play video games. It was just a choice we made. We invested in music lessons. The same applied to TV.

We made sure that whatever they watched on television or whatever videos they watched were appropriate to their age. We intervened in their lives and I believe their lives today reflect that. I encourage parents to take responsibility for their children because, ultimately, it is not the government, not the nanny state, that is responsible for children. It is not teachers and it is not the media literacy groups. It is parents themselves who have the best opportunity of intervening and protecting their children against violent programming that they should not be watching.

What are the solutions? I have already mentioned media literacy groups. These are groups in our society who actually teach children and parents about some of the strategies that they can employ to ensure the programming their children watch is wholesome.

Parental involvement I have also mentioned and ensuring we engage in the lives of our children. The V-chip is modern technology that we can use to ensure that violent programming is not brought into our homes where our children would be exposed to it.

We also have the role of the broadcasters. They already have a so-called voluntary code of conduct that addresses the whole issue of violence on television. From all accounts, that set of standards is working well.

The chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission also suggested a number of other things and the most important of those was the suggestion that our government introduce the right to impose administrative monetary penalties on those broadcasters who actually violate the standards that they have accepted as a condition of licence. We have accepted that as an excellent suggestion and we will be suggesting to the government that it move forward with introducing an intermediate set of administrative monetary penalties that will allow the commission to penalize those who actually do not follow the rules that are set for broadcasting violent programs on television.

That is why I support the committee's recommendation not to proceed with Bill C-327. It was not carefully thought out and it does amount to censorship. From the witness testimony, it was clear that it would not actually achieve the result that it was intended to achieve.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the members' speeches. I also read the minutes and some of the witnesses' statements beforehand. I am very interested in this issue, as are many of us, I am sure.

I just want to take a few minutes to share my opinion. It is a shame that the committee did not study the amendments proposed by our colleague from Burnaby—Douglas. A committee is supposed to consider our colleagues' suggestions for improving the bills it is studying.

When that does not happen, I cannot, as a parliamentarian, feel anything other than disappointment, not only for the member who was able to express himself, but also for our colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. I am disappointed because of what this means for all parliamentarians in this House who have the opportunity to submit a private member's bill or motion during a given session of Parliament.

As I said, studying the amendments proposed by the member for Burnaby—Douglas would probably have helped to save this bill, if I may say so. At least by studying them, we would have made an effort to save it.

I believe it is essential that we give private members' bills every opportunity to succeed, because introducing a bill gives a parliamentarian a chance to present something that we really care about, something our constituents really care about. It is important to introduce it, to speak in favour of it, to debate and discuss it, often, fortunately, with a greater degree of civility than what we are seeing here. This is essential, for without it, we would not have private members' bills.

I believe that this bill in particular deserved a better fate than the one that committee members condemned it to by refusing to study our NDP colleague's amendments. That makes me very sad, and I just wanted to share that with everyone.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate. There being no further members rising, pursuant to order made earlier today, the motion to concur in the seventh report of the Standing committee on Canadian Heritage, recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-327, is deemed adopted on division.

(Motion agreed to)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, on March 13, I asked the fisheries minister if he intended to raise the issue of so-called accidental fishing during negotiations with the Americans and whether he would start enforcing Canada's territorial waters and fine the American fishermen who illegally took our fish.

I also mentioned that the Conservative government was in treaty negotiations with the United States over Pacific salmon rights. Reports that American pollock fishers accidentally caught 130,000 Chinook, a full half of those fish from Canadian waters, is unacceptable. Canada's Chinook is at an all time low and working families and fishing communities are struggling to make ends meet.

The minister said that the government had already addressed the issue, that the amount of bycatch was unacceptable and that the government had made that quite clear to the Americans.

It is good to know that the issue was raised with our friends south of the border but he left Canadian fishermen with no guarantees that it will not happen again.

It is also interesting to note that the minister referred to a historical part of our heritage and an economic way of life for people of the Pacific south coast as “bycatch”, a term that seems to suggest that the fish that were caught are an unwanted commodity. It may be to pollock fishermen but to the people who feed their families and depend on the Chinook salmon for their financial well-being, bycatch hardly reflects the importance of these fish.

The United States recently issued a closure for Chinook, or King salmon, for California, Oregon and Washington. Now I am hearing disturbing news that it is currently in negotiations with our government in an effort to obtain Canadian fishing rights.

I am hearing from the Pacific south coast region that the Americans have put $20 million to $30 million on the table in the negotiation process. I am hearing that moneys collected will be used to subsidize the DFO budget and allow it to expand its research on the changing ocean climate, research on low escapement estimates and the salmon enhancement program.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is a Canadian government institution. Why would we even consider using American government funds for Canadian government initiatives?

The Pacific Salmon Commission's mandate is to create a mechanism for discussion between Canada and the United States around the salmon stock that we share because of the natural migratory path of the species. It also has a mandate to establish and enforce conservation to ensure the future of the species. As a commission, it identifies the issues and each country creates management policies. This mechanism was established to protect each country's sovereignty, a sovereignty that we are watching disappear right before our eyes.

Through discussions with a variety of stakeholder groups, it has now become apparent that DFO funding for many years now has been insufficient for the Pacific region.

The valuable salmon enhancement program is struggling due to cuts and the lack of a funding increase. The funding is still at 1999 levels. The hatcheries in B.C. have to contend with escalating costs and are cutting programs that would assist the salmon industry by enhancing declining stocks.

We need to do everything we can to increase salmon populations on the west coast. Habitat protection, science and enforcement are also DFO departments that have seen a decline in resources in the recent past.

Could the minister confirm that negotiations are taking place between Canada and the U.S.A. with regard to the purchase of Pacific salmon rights in Canadian waters and will he guarantee that he will protect Canadian sovereignty and ensure that the rights of Canadian fishermen are protected? Also--

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works.

7:20 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, last year, in 2007, approximately 130,000 chinook salmon were harvested as bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

While this fishery took place in U.S. waters outside the Canadian 200-mile exclusive economic zone, chinook from the Canadian portion of the Yukon River and from other B.C. rivers are caught in this fishery. We are currently reviewing the estimates of how many Canadian fish are intercepted.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was clear in his response to the question. He said that this level of bycatch was not acceptable, particularly when one considered that both Canada and the United States have agreed through the Yukon River salmon agreement to undertake efforts to reduce the marine bycatch of Yukon River salmon.

Not surprisingly, this issue has garnered a considerable amount of attention from fisheries agencies, salmon harvesters and conservation groups in both Canada and the U.S.

That is why I am pleased to report that Canada has been working with the United States to take concrete steps in addressing this issue. For example, Canada has been working with Alaskan authorities, through the Pacific salmon treaty process and the bilateral Yukon River panel, on ways to limit the level of chinook bycatch in the U.S. Bering Sea pollock fishery.

Specifically, the Canadian and U.S. chairs of the Yukon panel have written to U.S. management agencies responsible for regulating the pollock fishery, requesting that a fixed cap of 37,000 be placed on the bycatch of chinook.

Also, Canada's ambassador for fisheries conservation, Mr. Loyola Sullivan, has been meeting with key officials in the U.S. to raise our concerns and work toward bilateral solutions.

Canadian officials have also initiated discussions in the multilateral North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, which works to promote the conservation of salmon and other migratory species in the North Pacific Ocean.

We are also seeking to improve the sampling program in the pollock fishery to provide better estimates of the impact on chinook salmon.

Based on these discussions, I can assure the member that the United States and fishery agencies in both countries are concerned with the increases in bycatch we have seen in recent years and the impacts on a resource as important to our northern and coastal communities as chinook salmon.

It is not only talk. We are beginning to see progress as a result of these discussions. In December 2007, the United States federal government agreed to immediately reduce the total allowable catch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery from 1.3 million tonnes to 1 million tonnes in 2008. While this step alone will not limit the bycatch to an acceptable level, it represents a significant step forward.

And, more importantly, I understand that the U.S. is looking at a range of additional options in order to reduce the bycatch over the longer term. These options include the use of a fixed cap after which the pollock fishery would be closed for the season.

These measures will impact their industry and take time, but we are confident that the discussions between the U.S. federal government and its industry representatives will lead to actions that limit the bycatch to a level that is more acceptable to all parties.

Finally, I would note that the Bering Sea pollock fishery is currently undergoing marine stewardship certification review. Naturally, the U.S. industry is very concerned about this issue, as we are, given that the levels of bycatch for chinook salmon and other species seen in recent years could jeopardize the certification of the fishery. This review process provides yet another avenue for Canada and other countries to address this issue.

Again, while this process will take time, our government is committed to working with the U.S. and ensuring that measures are in place to protect, conserve and ensure the long term sustainability of Pacific salmon.

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam for his answers. Unfortunately, I would like to have seen at least the Minister of Fisheries here or the parliamentary secretary to answer these very serious questions.

The decline of salmon stocks on the west coast puts fishermen and our communities in crisis. We are looking at possible closures. First nations are being forced to share what little catch they are getting. I can only reiterate the importance of this issue. I cannot fathom why the minister or his parliamentary secretary are not here today.

Again, I am speaking to salmon enhancement that could go a long way to improve stocks on the west coast. When we look at funding for salmon enhancement at 1999 levels in the year 2008--

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. Before I recognize the hon. parliamentary secretary, I would remind the hon. member for Vancouver Island North that it is not appropriate to mention the absence or presence of members.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, we agree with the general concerns of my colleague from Vancouver Island North. I have outlined the steps that our government is taking with regard to Pacific salmon. We have a record that we are very proud to stand on.

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity this evening to speak to the House on the issue that has garnered many questions over the past few months but very few answers from this Conservative government.

This winter I asked the Prime Minister to provide the names of the individuals who were representing the Conservative Party when they went to the parliamentary office of the late Chuck Cadman and offered him a $1 million life insurance policy in exchange for his vote.

Canadians expect elected officials to conduct themselves with integrity, honesty and transparency. As a matter of fact, these are the very things that this current Prime Minister promised Canadians two years ago when he came to office. He promised openness and accountability.

Yet today, this very same Prime Minister, who claims to have done nothing wrong, refuses to provide any information on a very important allegation. The Prime Minister has been very tight-lipped on an issue for someone who claimed they have simply nothing to hide.

This Conservative government has been heavily cloaked in scandals for several months now. It has created a bit of confusion among the public trying to keep them all straight. We have NAFTA-gate, the Mulroney-Schreiber scandal, and the Kilrea-O'Brien affair, involving the environment minister. More and more this Conservative government adopted a motto that says: “I have nothing to say, I have everything to hide”.

Anyone who knew Chuck Cadman, and I knew Chuck Cadman as I served with him for years, would say that he was a man of the highest integrity. He respected this House and he earned the respect of his colleagues, his constituents and Canadians-at-large.

The Liberal opposition has called upon the Prime Minister to appear before a parliamentary committee to explain his role in what has become known as the Cadman affair.

One would expect that a prime minister would readily agree to dispel any of these allegations of vote buying when they have been levied against himself and his party, the Conservatives.

Canadians want to know what role their Prime Minister played in efforts to recruit Chuck Cadman's support. Do Canadians no longer have the right to demand transparency and accountability from the federal government?

With this constantly changing story on this issue, we cannot believe the Conservatives are telling Canadians what actually happened in the days leading up to the dramatic confidence vote in 2005. All the Conservative comments on this issue sharply contradict the claims that are made by the three remaining Cadman family members. They claim Conservative representatives offered the terminally ill MP Chuck Cadman a $1 million life insurance policy in exchange for being the swing vote bringing down the previous Liberal government.

Of course, the more serious part of the allegation is really the matter of the tape recording, where the Prime Minister himself appears to confirm that there was an offer involving financial considerations to get Mr. Cadman to switch his vote. The tape suggests the Prime Minister knew about the financial considerations that were being provided to Mr. Cadman ahead of time and yet, did nothing to stop the offer from being made.

When will the Conservative government end its stonewalling and allow parliamentary committees to get the answers about the Cadman affair and come clean with Canadians?

7:30 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, parliamentary committees can decide their own agendas. I do not have any control over that and nor does the Prime Minister. However, with regard to this issue itself, we have answered the central question that there is in this matter, which is that no offer of a $1 million life insurance policy was made. That is the allegation by the Liberals. It is false and it is embarrassing that they still believe the nonsense.

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that my hon. colleague is carrying the can for his party on this issue, but there is a tape. It has not been doctored. It has been presented by the author of a book on Chuck Cadman. We have the testimony of his wife Dona Cadman, his daughter Jodi, and his son-in-law, who all say the offer was made.

The fact that Chuck Cadman was a man of integrity is beyond dispute. The fact that a tape exists with the Prime Minister's own words on it would lead one to ask, as a reasonable person, why is the Prime Minister not coming clean, coming before a committee, and explaining the comments that are on the tape that he does not deny are his voice and his words?

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has answered the questions when the Leader of the Opposition has stood on his feet and asked them.

As I have said, my colleague totally misrepresents both Dona Cadman and Jodi Cadman and what they have said on this matter. There was no offer of a bribe and that allegation is completely ridiculous.

Of course, if the Liberals actually believed that the Prime Minister of this country was involved in a crime and if they actually believed their rhetoric, they would vote to defeat this government, but I am pleased that they have more confidence in our government than they have in their own leader.

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 7:36 p.m.)