Madam Speaker, unfortunately, pedophilia is standard practice among far too many people in positions of power or even with a drive to feel powerful. In some of his works, the Marquis de Sade described the domination of children as the logical sequel to the domination of women and pleasure as a type of aspiration to despotism.
In the 20th century, Sigmund Freud showed that civilization is built on restrictions. According to Freud's theory of the Oedipus complex, fathers and mothers could not be the sexual partners of children and the love that children have for their parents would ultimately turn into desire in adulthood.
The bill before us today amends the Criminal Code to replace the term “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse material” and makes consequential amendments to other acts. The bill does not have any direct or immediate legal effect to speak of, other than changing a term. However, that change is an important one.
In Canada, the age of consent for sexual activity is 16. Young people between the ages of 12 and 16 who are in the same age group have the right to engage in sexual activity with each other, but adults are prohibited from engaging in such activity with anyone in that age group. Under the age of 12, consent is not legally possible under any circumstances.
Using children to produce pornographic material is abuse. Child pornography is most definitely child sexual abuse. We support the bill.
Unfortunately, the term “pornography” is not clear. Everyone has their own definition. There is no consensus about the degree of consent in pornography. It was not uncommon for certain libertarian authors in centuries past to explicitly promote pedophilia.
Not everyone agrees that pornography is fundamentally violent. It is not criminal in the legal sense of the term, but there are certain exceptions such as child pornography. The fact that it is impossible to ascertain, understand and conclusively assess the participants' consent makes it difficult to distinguish between material that is erotic and material that is violent and obscene.
In the case of children, the acts are clearly defined by the Criminal Code. It is obvious that to fully heal, the victim must shed the guilt associated with the events. The burden must be borne by the abuser. We must use the term “child sexual abuse” rather than “child pornography” to make the gravity of the offence clear, so the victim can fully come to terms with it.
A person charged with possession of child pornography will not be charged with sexual assault even though they are indirectly participating in it by not reporting it and by taking advantage of the situation to satisfy their own urges. Most of the time, we do not talk about the victim in cases of child pornography, except to say that the child was indeed a child.
By calling it “child sexual abuse material”, we do two things: We name the abuse that the child suffered, and we also describe the accused as a sexual abuser of children. This term is much weightier, even though it means the same thing. It puts things into perspective: There is a victim of abuse in a crime involving child pornography, and there is a person sexually abusing children.
In many types of crime, there are often grey areas, extenuating circumstances, possible questions about the victim's level of culpability, participation and consent. In the case of child abuse, it is very clear. In the case of child abuse, we have to call a spade a spade and denounce this act without any nuance. There is no possible justification.
The term “child sexual abuse” is already being used by certain victim services organizations, including the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and Canada's national tip line for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children.
In Quebec, the majority of victims of sexual assault are adults, but the number of victims under the age of 18 continues to rise. It is rising more than the number of adult victims. The victims of other sexual offences are almost exclusively minors, specifically 90%.
Sexual assault is not the only such offence. Other sexual offences include sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, luring and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
The change in terminology proposed in the bill, which, once again, I welcome, would undoubtedly bolster judges' awareness because, let us face it, not all judges have all the knowledge required to deal with this type of case.
Let us not forget that in 2019, only three years ago, a judge said out loud during a trial that the victim, who was a minor at the time of the assault, had a pretty face and should therefore feel flattered to have attracted the attention of a mature man.
Furthermore, a judge in Alberta was removed after making comments deemed sexist and racist about indigenous people, abused women and victims of sexual assault.
Lastly, an acquittal was overturned because the judge, who found a man charged with sexual abuse of children not guilty, had made comments suggesting a stereotypical attitude. The judge said that, because nobody saw anything, the girl, who was between six and 12 years of age when the assaults happened, was not credible. According to the judge, the child's testimony was, and I quote, “not transparent, not reliable, not sincere and not credible”.
These examples speak volumes. They remind us of the importance of forcing judges to get training on sexual assault and the social context surrounding it. Bill C‑291 does not go that far, but a terminology change like the one proposed here is sure to be beneficial.
Masquerading as a libertarian utopia, child pornography is actually a system in which humans exploit other humans. We need to tackle it head-on.