moved that Bill C-58, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak in support of government Bill C-58, the child protection act.
I think everyone in this House would agree there is no greater duty for us as elected officials than to ensure the protection of children, the most precious and vulnerable members of our society.
The creation of the Internet, particularly the creation of the World Wide Web, has provided new means for offenders to distribute and consume child pornography, resulting in significant increases in the availability and volume of child pornography.
While Canada has one of the most comprehensive frameworks in the world to combat child pornography, we can and must do better in protecting children from sexual exploitation. This proposed new federal statute before us today would enhance Canada's capacity to better protect children from sexual exploitation by requiring suppliers of Internet services to report Internet child pornography.
Bill C-58 would strengthen Canada's ability to detect potential child pornography offences; help reduce the availability of online child sexual abuse; facilitate the identification, apprehension and prosecution of offenders; and, most importantly, help identify the victims so they may be rescued from sadistic pedophiles.
Less than a week ago, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection released a report that included an overview of the information received through reports to Cybertip.ca. Cybertip.ca is Canada's tipline for reporting online child sexual exploitation, in particular, child pornography, online luring, child exploitation through prostitution, travelling sex offenders and child trafficking.
I will quote from this report, which contains absolutely shocking information about the prevalence of online sexual assault and the distribution of these images:
The results of this assessment provide some disturbing data on the issue of child abuse images. Most concerning is the severity of abuse depicted, with over 35% of all images showing serious sexual assaults. Combined with the age ranges of the children in the images, we see that children under 8 years old are most likely to be abused through sexual assaults. Even more alarming is the extreme sexual assaults which occur against children under the age of 8 years. These statistics challenge the misconception that child pornography consists largely of innocent or harmless nude photographs of children.
The Cybertip.ca report reinforces similar findings revealed this past summer in the special report of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, “Every Image, Every Child”.
This report, which provided an overview of the problem of Internet-facilitated child sexual abuse, revealed that the number of charges for production and distribution of child pornography increased 900% between 1998 and 2003. Moreover, between 2003 and 2007, the number of images of serious child abuse quadrupled. Additionally, the images are becoming more violent and the photos are featuring younger children.
Canadians would be appalled to know that 39% of those accessing child pornography were viewing images of children between the ages of three and five, and 19% were viewing images of infants under three years old.
Here are a few other facts from the report. Commercial child pornography is estimated to be a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide. There are over 750,000 pedophiles online at any given time. Thousands of new images or videos are put on the Internet every week, and hundreds of thousands of searches for child sexual abuse are performed daily. Offenders may have collections of over a million child sexual abuse images. An image of a four year old girl in diapers has been shared an estimated 800,000 times. Most child sexual abuse image producers are known to the victims.
The most disturbing revelation in the ombudsman's report comes in the form of a quote from Ontario Provincial Police detective inspector Angie Howe. When she appeared before a Senate committee in 2005, she said:
The images are getting more violent and the children in the photos are getting younger. As recently as one year ago, we did not see pictures with babies, where now it is normal to see babies in many collections that we find. There is even a highly sought-after series on the Internet of a newborn baby being violated. She still has her umbilical cord attached; she is that young.
We must do everything within our power to put a stop to this growing problem. That is why our government has introduced legislation to create a uniform mandatory reporting regime across Canada.
It is important to note that the measures proposed in Bill C-58 build upon our existing comprehensive measures to better protect all children against sexual exploitation through child pornography.
Canadian criminal laws against child pornography are among the most comprehensive in the world and apply to representations involving real and imaginary children. Section 163.1 of the Criminal Code prohibits all forms of making, distributing, transmitting, accessing, selling, advertising, exporting, importing and possessing child pornography. It broadly defines child pornography that includes visual, written and audio depictions of sexual abuse of a young person under the age of 18 years, that advocates or counsels such unlawful activity, or that has descriptions of such unlawful activity as its predominant focus.
All child pornography offences are punishable by significant penalties, including a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment upon indictment for the offences of making and distributing child pornography.
Since 2005, all child pornography offences impose a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment and, as a result, convicted child pornographers are not eligible to receive a conditional sentence, for example, house arrest.
As well, the commission of any child pornography offence with the intent to profit is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
Also, since 2005, sentencing courts are required to give primary consideration to the sentencing objectives of denunciation and deterrence in sentencing for an offence involving the abuse of a child.
This government also recognizes that more is needed to combat this scourge than just strong criminal laws. That is why, in December 2008, we renewed the federal government's national strategy to protect children from sexual exploitation on the Internet. Initially launched in 2004, and under the lead of the Minister of Public Safety, this strategy is providing $42.1 million over five years to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre to provide law enforcement with better tools and resources to address Internet-based child sexual exploitation, enhance public education and awareness, and support the national launch and ongoing operation of Cybertip.ca as a national 24/7 tipline for reporting the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet.
As announced in budget 2007 and rolled out in 2008, we have allocated an additional $6 million per year to strengthen initiatives to combat the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children. These funds are being used to augment the overall capacity of the NCECC, as well as to specifically enhance its ability to identify, and ultimately rescue, child victims through the analysis of images seized from sex offenders, captured on the Internet or received from international law enforcement agencies.
The international community has also recognized that the protection of our children is of paramount importance in the many treaties that address the issue. In particular, the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime seeks to standardize a definition of child pornography and offences related to child pornography in an attempt to foster international cooperation for crimes against the world's children. The legislation introduced in the House yesterday would further enhance our ability to cooperate with our international partners in the fight to eradicate this violence.
I would now like to describe how this piece of legislation will work.
First, the bill focuses on the Internet and those who supply Internet services to the public, because the widespread adoption of the Internet is largely responsible for the growth in child pornography crimes over the last 10 years or so. Because suppliers of Internet services are uniquely placed to discover child pornography crimes, because they provide Canadians with the Internet services through which child pornography crimes can be committed, the bill imposes upon them a duty to report or notify.
It should be noted that this act will cover more than just ISPs. The term ISP usually refers to those who provide access to the Internet, in other words, the wires that go into our homes or apartments. This bill applies to all persons who supply an Internet service to the public. While this includes ISPs, it also includes those who supply electronic mail services such as webmail, Internet content hosting, which would include web server farms and co-location facilities, and social networking sites on which the public can upload material to an Internet service.
Furthermore, the act would apply to those who provide complimentary Internet services to the public, such as cybercafés, hotels, restaurants and public libraries. This wide application will ensure that the act has as broad a scope as possible and will eliminate as many pedophile safe havens as possible.
Under this new federal statute, suppliers of an Internet service will have a duty to comply with a number of requirements.
First, they will be required to report to a designated agency whenever they are advised of any Internet addressing information relating to a website where child pornography may be found. To be clear, it is only the Internet addressing information that they will be required to report to the designated agency. No personal information will be sent to the designated agency.
This has to be done for two reasons. First, in order to perform the triage function of determining where this material resides, the designated agency does not need any additional information. Second and most importantly, since the designated agency does not need personal information to fulfill its duties, which will be articulated in the regulations, to protect the privacy of Canadians, no personal information will be passed on by the supplier of the Internet service to the designated agency.
Although the regulations have not yet been finalized, it is anticipated that the main role of the designated agency will be to, first, determine if the Internet addressing information actually leads to child pornography as defined by the Criminal Code, and second, to determine the actual geographic location of the web servers hosting the material. The designated agency would then refer the report on to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
The second duty proposed by Bill C-58 would require persons who supply Internet services to the public to notify police when they have reasonable grounds to believe that a child pornography offence has been committed using their Internet service.
For example, if an email provider, while conducting routine maintenance for its mail servers, found a user's mailbox filled with child pornography, it would then be required to notify police that it had grounds to believe that a child pornography offence had been committed. This duty, which falls under clause 4 of this proposed new federal statute, also comes with an additional duty to preserve this information for 21 days once the email provider had notified police.
In order to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadians would not be unduly impacted, the person who notified police would also be required to destroy any information that would not be retained in the ordinary course of business after the expiry of the 21 days, or continue to safeguard the information if a further court order were obtained in relation to that information. Any person who made a notification to police under this act would also be required not to disclose the fact that he or she had made such a notification.
Bill C-58 was also crafted with the following overarching principles in mind.
This legislation should not contribute to the consumption or further dissemination of child pornography. In accordance with this principle, among other things, the bill explicitly states that it does not require or authorize any person to seek out child pornography. In addition to this, the duties were crafted in a manner that would not require a person who supplies an Internet service to do any personal investigation.
They are not required to verify Internet addressing information when they must report to an agency, and they are required to notify police only when they become aware that a child pornography offence has been committed using their Internet service.
The last feature of the bill that I would like to talk about this afternoon is the offences and the penalties.
Any person who knowingly contravenes his or her duties under this act is liable on summary conviction to a graduated penalty scheme, starting with fines of up to $1,000 for a first offence to $5,000 for a second offence with the possibility of a $10,000 fine and/or imprisonment for up to six months for a third and subsequent offence.
Increased penalties are available for corporations and these, in the same manner, are $10,000, $50,000 and $100,000 respectively. The two-tier penalty scheme recognizes the diverse landscape of Canada's service provider community which ranges from large multi-national corporations to sole-proprietorships. While some might argue that these penalties are relatively minor, the government believes that they strike the balance between sending a message to suppliers of Internet services that they have a social, moral and now legal duty to report this heinous material when they encounter it and the real focus of the bill which is compliance.
This government wants to ensure that not only the major ISPs, that already voluntarily report and assist policy, comply but that all suppliers of Internet services in Canada comply so that we can further the goal of better protecting our children.
I hope that all parties and all members of Parliament will provide support for Bill C-58.