Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill which deals with child pornography and to put on the record the concerns, comments and support of my caucus.
This bill is roundly supported by all parties. We are here today to acknowledge the work of those in our community who have been fighting for decades to stop the curse of child pornography and more recently to put restrictions on the spread of this vile propaganda by the Internet.
I want to spend a few minutes reminding Canadians how we all have to work together on this issue. I want to reference the work of an organization in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that is headed up by Roz Prober, who has been working on issues of the sex trade and child pornography for many years. In fact, just this past week in Winnipeg a number of sessions were held and media awards were presented to organizations and individuals in our country who have been outspoken, vocal, and ever present on the issue of child pornography.
Roz Prober and her organization, Beyond Borders, have started a campaign called “Man to Man”. The reason for that campaign is that it is recognized that in most instances regarding child pornography and the use of the Internet to spread child pornography, the main propagators of this offensive material are men.
The idea of the campaign is to persuade other men, who know the importance of stopping the spread of child pornography, who know where it can lead, and how harmful it can be to our whole society, to encourage those men to speak to other men whether it be in terms of how they treat women generally or how they view women and children as sexual objects.
However, the importance of the campaign is to start at the very beginning with that notion that somehow women and children are the sexual property of men. If we can get at that root cause, if we can understand what drives people to produce, promote and spread child pornography, then we will have won half the battle.
Many in the House have worked for years trying to convince the present Parliament and previous ones to take tough stands and take serious legislative steps to crack down on anything that promotes the use of violence, violence against women, violence against children, and violence against any vulnerable members in our society, as a way to exercise power over others.
Many in the House have worked for years, and I think about previous members of Parliament: Margaret Mitchell, Dawn Black, Audrey McLaughlin, Alexa McDonough, and the list goes on and on. These women have stood in this place to say that we as a society, as a Parliament, and as a country have an obligation to get to the roots of pornography and violence against women and children. The only way to do that is to recognize it for what it is, which is the exercise of power over others.
The House will remember Rosemary Brown, who was a prominent member in Canadian politics, who was the first black woman to seek the national leadership of any political party. She worked as an NDP MLA in British Columbia for years and was well known renowned feminist across this country. I remember her words to this day, acknowledging that she passed away a couple of years ago and we lost a great heroine and a great fighter, but she always said, “If we do not challenge the notion that might is right, [that competition is the basis to survival,] then there is no point to this struggle after all”.
What we are talking about in this debate is power over others, how it is wielded, how it degrades people, how it makes them second-class citizens, and how it puts people on a life cycle of dependency, hopelessness and despair because the victims of child pornography are faced with formidable challenges in trying to overcome that humiliation, that sense of no identity, that feeling of being dirty and second class.
That is something that takes years and years to overcome. Sometimes it is never overcome and the victims of violence, child pornography, sexual degradation, or the sex trade, if they can escape it, they will fight for their whole lives trying to regain their sense of self worth and purpose in life.
This debate is pretty fundamental to our notion of a civil society, our notion that everyone among us, no matter whether we look at people through the prism of sex or race or ability can contribute to society. It is absolutely clear that our job as parliamentarians is to ensure that everyone, regardless of sex, race or ability is able to be who they are and contribute on the basis of their unique talents their individual potential and contribute that to our society. When they become pawns in a massive trade regarding child pornography, we demean not just those who are the victims who are portrayed in child pornography but we, in fact, demean an entire society and reduce it to its lowest common denominator.
Our job must be to use every strategy at our fingertips, every mechanism available to crack down on child pornography. This is not a time for anyone among us to debate the whole issue of freedom of speech because we all know that there is no freedom of speech when that freedom is used to take someone else's freedom away. That is what child pornography does. That is what pornography does generally. It takes away the freedom of that child or woman, or any other victim of pornography and sexual degradation, to be who they truly are as individuals.
Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to ensure that we move the bill as expeditiously as possible through all levels and all processes in this place to honour the work of those who have come before us and to recognize those members in our communities everywhere, whether it is in Winnipeg with Beyond Borders, whether it is a national organization in terms of child protection, or whether it is the women's movement, where feminists have been speaking out for decades to end violence against any individual and sexual degradation of any individual. We need to honour that work and bring it to fruition, entrench it in law, and crack down on the production, dissemination, and the spread of this vile propaganda that degrades and humiliates people and lowers the whole level of civilization in our country today.
I think it is an offence to the very notion of a civilized society that child pornography is allowed in any shape or form. It is contrary to any notion of what we believe in, in terms of a society where everyone is treated with decency, equality, dignity and respect.
I think it is incumbent upon each one of us to do what we can in our respective constituencies and communities, so that we are not just here promoting laws that will actually make a difference but we are on the streets, in our neighbourhoods, at the community level, in the grassroots of our communities, speaking out every time there is any sign, any sense, any whiff of material or actions or activity that shows and reveals children as sexual objects or women as second-class citizens.
So, what I am saying is this debate is more than just about the law. It is about government policies, in general, and whether or not we are there to support those organizations, those non-governmental community organizations, the women's movement, the cross-borders organizations of the country,and whether we are there supporting them through resources and through acknowledging the validity of their work.
While I know the government is very supportive of cracking down on pornography, as witnessed by this legislation, we sometimes wonder if the government is really there, prepared to get at the roots of the problem, and support organizations that need resources of the government to fight, to speak, and to act. We have had huge debates in this place about whether or not government funds should be used to do such things, to advocate on behalf of others. Many organizations have lost their funds because they are seen as advocates, as speaking out for a purpose, as fighting against something.
I know we have disagreements in this place sometimes about the end goal and our very notion of what is a civil society. However, I would implore government members today to think about the wisdom of that kind of approach and decision, and to, in fact, reconsider supporting women's organizations, which are the leaders on this issue, through core funding.
Most of the organizations I know that fight on these terms, on this basis, spend half their time trying to figure out how to keep going as an organization. They spend half their time making applications and trying to fit their program into a government-sponsored initiative, trying to fit a round peg into a square box, trying to be as creative and as imaginative as possible, in order to access a bit of resources just to keep going.
The women's movement has been drastically hurt in its ability to keep being that voice in our communities against child pornography and violence against anyone because it is spending most of its time trying to figure out how to stay alive, if it is still alive. In fact, many important organizations have had to be silenced, have had to terminate their existence because there is no support from a government that should support such organizations since they get to the very roots of the problem that we talk about today. We cannot just do it with the heavy hand of the law.
We support the bill because it takes a multi-disciplined and a multifaceted approach, but we have to fight at the community level, too. We have to deal with the very fundamental attitude that people can overpower others and do so in the most vilest of ways, through the degradation we have seen in some of the most horrific child pornography cases anywhere, as we know recently from the news in terms of pornography rings that have been broken and individuals charged.
That is just the tip of the iceberg. Pornography is everywhere. The way in which we treat women and children is rooted in a society where the powerful are given licence to overcome the more vulnerable, given licence because we do not stop them from repressing women and children and making them victims.
I hope, through this legislation, we crack down on child pornography on the Internet, that is spread electronically, at the speed of light, everywhere and is so readily accessible to everyone in society. At the same time, I hope, in the process, we recognize that we also have to change attitudes.
Every time there is an act of violence against another in our society, any time women are treated as sexual objects or children are seen as pawns in this game of trading pornographic material, anytime individuals in society are not allowed to be who they are on their own terms, then we have to act and we have to support community groups to do that.
We cannot sit back and allow cultural conditioning to overwhelm us, sex stereotyping to be pervasive, second-class status to be attributed to children. We have to recognize every one as an individual who should be unencumbered and free to pursue his or her life's dreams without being defined, stereotyped and placed in precarious situations because of a society that needs to make money off the treatment of others as second-class citizens.
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today and to recognize community groups that have been there for us. In turn, I would ask Parliament to be there for them.