Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-22 about online child pornography.
It is hard to imagine a more despicable, disgusting and appalling crime than the abuse of a child.
It is impossible for any of us to imagine that such a thing is possible, but we all know that today it is far too common. Unfortunately, the victims who bear the brunt of this abuse lay all too silent.
Most child victims of abuse are never found or are found far later in their lives. Their lives unravel at inexplicable times, and when we scratch the surface and go back into what started this, we often find episodes of child abuse.
Those who commit the abuse are often not found. Once individuals are found, it is discovered that not only have they had a few victims, but generally there has been a long-standing pattern of victimization. Many have abused dozens and dozens of children over a prolonged period of time. It is a psychiatric sickness, but it is also a cancer in our society that is absolutely intolerable.
The bill goes some way toward dealing with that and specifically with dealing with online child pornography. It was introduced on May 6 in the last Parliament and is being resurrected again in this Parliament.
The bill basically obligates people to report all website addresses they are aware of that may contain pornography. There is an obligation to report them to police if it is believed that a child pornography offence has or will be committed, based on the services one has. The provider must also preserve the relevant computer data for 21 days after notifying the police.
Failure of sole providers to report such a thing will result in fines of between $1,000 and $10,000, and failure of corporations to do this will result in fines of between $10,000 and $100,000. It is important to note that the bill does not require online providers to proactively seek out child pornography.
Therefore, the Liberal Party of Canada, given its long-standing history of addressing this issue, will be supporting the bill to go on to committee stage.
Legislative initiatives to deal with this go as far back as 2002, when the Liberal government of the day, for the first time, introduced legislation to deal with and criminalize online pornography and those people who contribute to it.
It would be worthwhile to talk a bit about facts and to discuss the depth and scope of this terrible problem.
The Internet is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it provides great opportunities to learn and disseminate information. The dark side of this, of course, is the issue we are talking about today, which is child pornography. It is important for us to understand what this actually means. No one thinks it is innocuous, but it certainly has to be dealt with in terms of how serious it is, as I mentioned, because of the long-standing trauma it inflicts on children. Children are not only being exposed to child pornography on sites but are also being victimized by it, as individuals try to lure children through the Internet capabilities they have.
Here is a little bit of information. Seventy-six per cent of offenders convicted of Internet-related crimes against children admitted to sex crimes against children that were previously unknown to law enforcement. Each offender admitted to 30.5 victims; so every person picked up as an offender has, on average, abused 30 children. That is an absolutely staggering number of children per abuser.
Of the 1,400 cases of reported child molestation, child pornography was used in the majority of cases by those who were the molesters. Child molesters almost always collect child pornography, and 80% of purchasers of child pornography who have been charged have actually been active abusers. We can see the strong connection between those who are actually engaging in and looking at child pornography and the fact that those individuals are also abusing children. There is a direct correlation.
The absence of contact with a child is probably the most significant factor in limiting the production of child pornography and the opportunity to access to children, which is an essential factor in the production of child pornography and child abuse.
The RCMP stands out as a shining example of a Canadian police force that has done an extraordinary amount of work in this area. The RCMP is known worldwide as being a leader in the area of combatting child pornography. All of us in the House should commend the RCMP for the excellent work it has done and the men and women who have to endure looking at these sites and horrible images. This cannot be an easy thing for them to do. For those men and women who work within the RCMP and who have to look at these sites, witness this horrible abuse and try to identify those individuals who do this, we thank them for their service to Canada and particularly for their service to the children of Canada and the world.
The RCMP has a site called cybertip.ca. This site has received over 35,000 reports, 90% of which were considered to be child pornography. If people who are watching this debate today are aware of or know of individuals who are engaged in child pornography or child abuse, I ask them to please contact 911 or cybertip.ca.
Only 30% of children who disclose that they have been sexually abused do so during childhood. As I said before in my opening comments, as a physician I have seen a lot of patients who have been abused sexually and oftentimes they have different problems. When their lives start to unravel and an indepth history is done, too often it is found that they have a history of sexual abuse.
I used to be a correctional officer. I also, as a physician, I worked in the jails. The number of people in jail who had been abused sexually as a child is very large. Many of them not only have psychiatric problems, but they also have substance abuse problems, a lot of which stems from early sexual abuse. Many of the pedophiles in jail were sexually abused as children. It is a vicious cycle that goes around and around.
The Liberal Party supports the bill. We also support the work that the RCMP has done.
One of the things we have to look at is the early childhood period. We need a better way to reach these children so when they are abused, they have a safe place to go to talk about it so the perpetrators can be arrested and the children can be taken out of that situation.
As I said before, only 30% of children disclose that they have been sexually abused before the age of six, which means that 70% of children who are sexually abused prior to the age of six never tell. They endure years of abuse unknown to anybody. We can deal with this by providing opportunities.
I will give the House a real life example of the impact of this.
I worked in a jail where two sisters around the age of 14 had been picked up for prostitution. Their mother, who I knew because I had treated in the detox unit and in emergency, had a substance abuse problem. She was prostituting her two little girls to raise money to pay for her drug abuse problem.
I told the two young women that they would wind up dead if they did not stop, and they laughed it off. A year and a half after that one of the girls was found dead in a ditch in northern British Columbia. After that, I was walking through the pediatric ward doing my rounds and this girl looked familiar. She was still a teenager and she had a very bad stroke affecting half of her body. Because of the environment she was in, she had been exposed to drugs. I do not know what happened to her after that, but what a profoundly tragic end to two little girls who could have had a full and complete life if it were not for the situation they had been in.
If we take a look at the broader scope, there is child sex tourism. This is a situation where we have adults from the west going to countries, generally third world countries but sometimes a lot go to eastern Europe, where laws are lax and interest is limited in terms of child abuse. Adults are going far away to Southeast Asia, eastern Europe, areas of extreme poverty, and they are using the very unstable situation to fulfill their warped and twisted sexual appetites.
The victims of this are literally millions of children. In fact, it is estimated that in India, there are 1.2 million child prostitutes. In Thailand, a favoured destination of pedophiles, 40% of the prostitutes are children. If we look at the cycle, sometimes individuals go into rural and impoverished areas that are in the grips of deep poverty. They tell parents that if they bring their sons or daughters to them, they will ensure the children get jobs and the money will go to the parents. They tell them that their children will do domestic work or some other legitimate form of activity. Instead they take the children and use them as sex slaves.
The children have no hope and no future. They are horribly abused. They suffer from malnutrition. Sometimes they get pregnant early on. They acquire HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They die an early death. They are victims of extreme violence. They are often gang raped and no one hears about them. They are silent victims in this ever-growing epidemic.
Bill C-22 is an effort to try to deal with this.
We all see cases from time to time that come to forefront when individuals are caught. However, the number of people who are engaged in these behaviours, westerners who go abroad to engage in the sexual abuse of children, and who are actually caught is very small. Only a tiny fraction of these parasites are caught.
It speaks to the failure internationally of countries working together and collectively to address this. Too many times, domestic police forces turn a blind eye. In many of these impoverished countries, children have no rights. They are not really seen as being worthy of the protection of whatever legal rules they have. As a result, children are treated as little more than chattel. This leaves an environment that is ripe for this kind of dramatic sexual abuse and the horrible situations these children endure.
It occurs all over the world, as I said. It is very common in eastern Europe. It is very common in parts of Africa and certainly in Southeast Asia, but we are not immune from this here. Individuals acquire children and bring them to Canada and the United States. Children are abused in our country and we do not even know about it. The Internet is a route to doing that. When people are aware of the type of child pornography on the Internet, it is not a victimless crime. It is very much a crime, period, and the victims are the most underprivileged people in our society.
There are also a number of other very interesting endeavours taking place. The RCMP has, again, been at the forefront of it. It is trying to do a scan to determine the extent of the problem. It is trying to get a better handle on who does this so the people can be identified. It is trying to do a better job of understanding why people would try to go down this route in the first place and how they can be identified before they start to wrack up the number of victims.
Victim identification is also another challenge. Canada has not done a very good job on this. This is certainly something that needs to be addressed and dealt with.
All of us are very pleased that this issue has been brought forward, unlike the gun registry, which dominated the beginning of this Parliament. It is not even, by any stretch of the imagination, an issue that should be consuming Parliament in any way shape or form. There are thousands of other important issues that affect Canadians, such as jobs, money in their pockets, health care and myriad of other issues. This, at least, is an issue that is important.
It is also important to understand that the RCMP is working in an area that has received short shrift. When there is a disaster, in times of extreme insecurity, such as what occurred in the Tsunami in Southeast Asia, what is occurring in Pakistan today and what occurred in Haiti during the earthquake, children are extremely vulnerable. People lure children, taking them into sex slavery and prostitution. Like vultures they descend into these environments and try to find children who are lost, orphaned and found on the streets. At a time of insecurity, when the rule of law has been shattered, they go in and try to find children to abduct. This is a huge challenge, one on which compliment the RCMP for engaging in.
Right now the there is a strategy called “Operation Century”, which is an effort to try to prevent children, during the time of natural disaster, from being subjected to these kinds of abuses and from being abducted from their homes to be trapped. It is part of a national strategy in which the RCMP is engaged.
This all started back in 2002 when, for the first time, legislation was adopted and implemented to deal with something that was very new, which was the use of the Internet as a tool to capture children and use them for sexual abuse and to commit violent acts against them.
There is a national strategy for the protection of children from sexual exploitation on the Internet. The strategy was first launched in 2004 under then Prime Minister Paul Martin, and it extends to this day. I am very happy that the House has chosen to take this.
I hope all of us can agree that this is about our most vulnerable citizens, the children of our country and children from afar. Children deserve to have a life free of these kinds of abuses and violence, sexual abuse and exploitation to which some are subjected. No children should be subjected to that.
I think all of us support the RCMP's efforts to prevent it. We must work together to implement the legal tools that it needs to deal with an every-changing complex issue, which is the use of the Internet to exploit children.