May 29, 1984 (32nd Parliament, 2nd Session)


Lynn McDonald

New Democratic Party

Ms. Lynn McDonald (Broadview-Greenwood):

Mr. Speaker, on April 18 I asked the Minister of Justice (Mr. Mac-Guigan) to consider taking out of the Criminal Code amendments in Bill C-19 the clauses on obscenity and bring them into the House for swift passage. I raised this because we know that obscenity is getting worse, pornography is growing, it is getting more violent and the police are saying that they are helpless to do anything about it. We have had examples in Toronto of stores selling video tapes, including very violent ones, to children. I do not want to get into the argument as to whether "snuff' movies, which have been reported to be sold, are real or not. Certainly we know that the violence is bad enough.
However, the Minister was very complacent. He said there are many parts of the Criminal Code which are of the utmost urgency. We need all of that Bill, not just parts of it. Well, there are other parts of Bill C-19 I would like to see passed as well. But certainly one of the most important must be the obscenity section. I remind the House that the Minister has had an entire year. He brought in draft legislation to this effect last June, yet we have not actually had any debate on the Bill. He is not moving ahead on this specific and very important part, nor is he moving ahead on the other parts of Bill C-19.

I am wondering whether the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada (Mr. MacGuigan) is more interested in publicity for his Liberal Party leadership campaign than in concrete improvements or in amendments to the Criminal Code.
Two committees and one subcommittee are now considering that issue, but the Bill in question, Bill C-19, remains on the Order Paper and has not come up for debate. The Bill was given first reading in January, but since then the Government has not even set a single day aside for debate. In the meantime, pornography problems are growing worse. Yesterday, a representative of the Reseau d'action et d'information pour les femmes tabled before the subcommittee a brief describing his attempts to file a complaint against pornographic magazines in Quebec, and I had an opportunity to examine magazines depicting very violent scenes.
The police in Quebec have refused to act on those complaints because of loopholes in the existing legislation. It is quite obvious that legislative amendments have become neces-

May 29, 1984

sary. Those examples include pictures of naked and tied up women with a knife or a razor close to them. According to the present legislation, that is not obscene because no men are seen in the picture. In another example, a woman is shown fully dressed, but on her hands and knees and held on a leash like a dog. That is degradation, of course, but it is not obscene!
The debate on pornography has recently taken a very constructive turn, in my opinion. In its brief to the subcommittee, a delegation of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women has called for legal protection on grounds of the right to equality or non discrimination. Those women have told us that it is a human right to be represented as a human being, and that it would be a breach of that right to be shown as a dog or a vile being without self-respect who agrees to be tortured or enjoys vulgarities. I would suggest that the links between pornographic and real violence are strong enough to justify legislative amendments, particularly more severe sanctions. According to that line of reasoning, there is no need to establish such links to justify stronger legislation. The right to equality, human rights, call for that kind of protection.
The obscenity provisions brought forward in this legislation, which we have not debated, do go in the right direction and deal with degradation, and we need them, but I believe there is one thing that is wrong with the Minister's proposal. It would seem to be a loophole on account of the expectation that all provinces have censorship laws. This is a provision to require the permission of the Attorney General to prosecute when a film or video cassette has gone through a provincial classification censorship board.
However, not all provinces have censorship. The Province of Manitoba does not. It only has classification. Quebec, in effect, does not censor films or cassettes. This would impede prosecution for films or cassettes which could be extremely pornographic. I do not think that is a step in the right direction.
To conclude, I would ask the Minister again to move quickly on this issue. The problems are important. If he is really serious about dealing with violent pornography, we do not want more press conferences or promises, we want to get legislation in the House and have it passed.

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