Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to participate in the debate on Bill C-2, the child protection bill. This bill is almost identical to previous legislation, Bill C-12 and Bill C-20. They were primarily intended to address concerns regarding Canada's child pornography laws.
Canadian children deserve nothing less than total protection from child pornography. This legislation, however, is little more than smoke and mirrors. As lawmakers, we have the tough task of weighing the protection of children from sexual exploitation against the protection of free speech and free thought protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On this question, I agree wholeheartedly with Cheryl Tobias, a lawyer from the Department of Justice, who said, when appearing before the Supreme Court during the John Robin Sharpe case that if pedophiles have a constitutional right to free expression, “it is dwarfed by the interests of children in our society...We ought not sacrifice children on the altar of the Charter”.
What we need are laws with teeth. Toothless laws will only hamper police and crown attorneys as they try to catch producers of child pornography.
Children should not be sexually exploited, but it continues to happen thousands of times a day. There does not seem to be the political will to stop it by the weak and arrogant Liberal government.
The Department of Justice proposed Bill C-2 and its predecessors to expand the offence of sexual exploitation and the definition of pornography, and to eliminate the defence of artistic merit in child pornography proceedings.
As well, the bill would increase maximum sentences for people convicted of these crimes. If passed, the bill would create a new offence of voyeurism and the distribution of voyeuristic material.
Bill C-2 is a reaction to the case of John Robin Sharpe, a child pornographer charged with possession of child pornography. Sharpe was initially found guilty of possession of child pornography, but on appeal, two lower courts acquitted Sharpe citing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Sharpe had as many as 400 images of boys younger than 14 engaged in sex and a collection of his own stories entitled “Kiddie Kink Classics”. In March 2002 Sharpe's conviction concerning the images was upheld by the Supreme Court; however, he was ultimately acquitted of related charges that had been filed against him in connection with stories he had written, specifically because those writings were deemed to have artistic merit.
This ruling resulted in the current legal status of child pornography in Canada which is too permissive and threatens the safety of children. Earlier forms of Bill C-2 sought to close the loophole that allows people to create child pornography using artistic merit as a defence by establishing a standard of public good.
The Liberals have now been forced by public outrage to drop the term public good as a defence for the possession of child pornography. They have replaced public good with a new defence of legitimate purpose. Legitimate purpose is defined to include, among other things, art.
The Conservative Party wants the elimination of all defences that justify the criminal possession of child pornography. There is nothing artistic about child pornography. It is wrong and has been shown to lead to the sexual abuse of children.
Police and prosecutors still do not have the tools to deal with child pornography cases effectively or efficiently. In the first three years that members of the Toronto child exploitation unit spent tracking child pornography, they made 27 arrests and seized 84 computers with millions of images, but the police have been frustrated in their attempts to get jail time for these offenders. Most get conditional sentences or house arrest. The police frequently spend more time investigating the cases than offenders will spend in jail. This is the case for other crimes as well.
In my riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells marijuana grow operations are a significant concern. The RCMP recently announced that there are 4,500 marijuana grow ops in the City of Surrey. That represents about 6% of the city's households.
There will be 2,000 to 3,000 grow ops raided and shut down this year in the Fraser Valley. Across the border in Whatcom County there will be less than 10. The difference can be explained by the tougher sentences handed out in Washington State. There, operators of a grow op with more than 100 plants face an automatic five years in jail. For the first offence it is three months in jail and seizure of assets. In B.C. a person can be charged seven or eight times and still not be incarcerated.
The judiciary must hand out tougher sentences that better reflect community values. The higher maximum sentences contained in Bill C-2 for child pornography and predation will not be effective unless the courts enforce them.
Increased maximum sentences are meaningless if the courts do not impose the sentences, and we know by experience that when maximum sentences are raised, there is no corresponding pattern in the actual sentencing practices. What is needed are mandatory sentences, truth in sentencing, and no conditional sentences for child predators.
Conditional sentences which allowed child sex offenders, murderers, rapists and impaired drivers the opportunity to serve their sentences at home rather than in prison must be eliminated for serious offenders.
In 1999, 66,000 pornography images were found in the home of convicted pedophile Tony Marr. Police spent a year preparing the case against him, but Marr ended up with a conditional sentence and probation. One of the conditions of his probation was that he not use the Internet and computers except for medical purposes or work. Recent surveillance video showed him apparently working around a computer and exchanging CDs. This shows the absurdity of conditional sentences.
It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 child porn Web sites on the World Wide Web. A research group at the University of Cork in Ireland that studies child pornography is seeing an average of three to four new faces of abused children each month. About 40% of the girls and 55% of the boys are between the ages of 9 and 12. The rest are even younger. The group estimates that there are 50,000 new child abuse images being posted to newsgroups every month. Various studies have shown that about 35% to 50% of child porn collectors have a history of abusing children.
In the past three years 44% of the people arrested in Toronto for possessing child pornography have also been charged with or convicted with sexually abusing children.
The landslide child porn bust in the United States provided Canadian authorities with 2,329 Canadian leads, but almost 2,000 have never been looked at by police. That is because most communities simply do not have the will or resources or the officers who are trained to do the job.
Child killer Michael Briere admitted that he had been aroused by watching child porn on his computer just before he kidnapped, sexually molested and killed Holly Jones.
At present, the age of consent for sexual activity is set in the Criminal Code at 14 years of age. There have been recent reports that cross-border pedophiles are luring vulnerable children by way of the Internet. This cross-border pedophile activity into Canada has been enhanced by two factors: first, Canada's age of consent for sex is set at only 14 years, being one of the lowest of all western nations; and, second, Canada is one of the world's most wired countries; there are more than 10 million Internet users in this country.
According to a study by Microsoft, 80% of children in Canada have computers in their homes and 25% of them had already been invited to meet strangers that they had chatted with on-line.
The Internet has become a massive vehicle for criminals to lure and abuse Canadian children and to distribute illegal material. Research shows that pedophiles will often manipulate young children by showing them pictures on the Internet making them believe that sex with adults is acceptable.
Amendments were made to the Criminal Code in 2002 to make the luring of children through the Internet an offence. Although that was an important step to protect children--