Mrs. Betty Hinton (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, CPC): ): Madam Speaker, I would like to begin with just a moment of your time to congratulate you on becoming Chair. It is very nice to see you there and I am very pleased for you. I think you are going to enjoy the job very much. It makes my job tonight that much easier, because tonight I am going to speak not as a member of Parliament to the Chair but woman to woman.
This has been said many times before, but it bears repeating: Canada's children are our greatest natural resource. We take extreme measures to protect other natural resources and we should do no less for Canadian children. Bill C-2 falls far short in this regard. In fact, we can start right at the definition of a child. The government defines a child as anyone 14 and under when it should certainly be 16 and under.
Child pornography has become a multi-billion dollar industry and Canadian children should be protected from it. How do we do this? We must make every effort possible to shut down this industry, and that includes legislation making child pornography a very unattractive way to make money. We must make the punishment for producing or buying child pornography so tough that the risk of apprehension and prosecution is too high. It is simply unacceptable that these young people are robbed of their youth in order to fulfill the perverted desires of adults.
There is no defence for child pornography. This includes so-called art. Our courts routinely hand out slap-on-the-hand sentences for pedophiles. Karl Toft is an example of this exact thing. There was a man in a position of authority in a boys' training school. He molested hundreds of boys, did irreparable damage to these young men and received a 13 year sentence. To add insult to injury, this man now walks the streets of Edmonton in relative freedom, from a halfway house, and he collects his full government pension.
Can anyone call this justice when many of his victims have been incapable of making a living due to the psychological damage he inflicted on them?
In March 2002, B.C. superior court judge Duncan Shaw ruled that John Robin Sharpe was not guilty of possessing or distributing written child pornography because of the artistic merit of the work. Judge Duncan had no choice. This was included in the Criminal Code then and it will be again if Bill C-2 becomes law. Under the guise of legitimate purpose, we will find the word “art”. How can anyone interpret the brutalization of a child as art? Let us ask a child who has been brutalized if she or he would have allowed this to happen to them for the public good. Let us ask an RCMP officer who deals with this repulsive material during the course of an investigation if he can work the word “art” into the description of the material.
I had the opportunity one or two years ago of listening to a delegation from the Toronto police force that had the horrible chore of dealing with child pornography on a daily basis. They took our caucus into their confidence. They showed us films and told us what it is they deal with on a day to day basis. I still to this day cannot close my eyes without seeing those images. In this House of Parliament we are very careful not to offend the sensibilities of anyone, so I will spare members the details of what I saw. But I hope it is enough to say that I simply cannot allow this to continue.
I want to have a very strong law in this country. Bill C-2, in its current position, is not strong. The term “liable to a term not exceeding” should be replaced with “liable to a term of not less than”. This would leave the judges no room for wrist-slapping sentences for child abusers. This would give this law teeth. I could support it if this were to happen.
If the government is sincere about getting child pornography under control, it must occupy itself with the rights of the child, give the authorities the tools they need to bring these perverts to justice and mandate the courts to carry out the full force of the law.
In the short time I have been here, just under four years, we have stood in the House and we have heard the government present arguments called artistic merit, public good, and now, legitimate purpose.
This is not difficult. Madam Speaker, you are a women yourself and I am sure you understand as clearly as I do that there is no justification for child pornography. If we cannot stand up and protect our children then we fail miserably as a government.
In my riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo we have a wealth of natural resources, including a copper mine. If someone came in and stole the copper from that mine they would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. There should be no less a consequence for stealing a childhood.
We as parliamentarians owe this assurance to the people we represent.
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