Mr. Jacques Guilbault (Saint-Jacques):
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to make a few comments on Bill C-135, which amends the Customs Tariff by extending the period during which a definition of pronography may be used by customs officers to stop at our borders pornographic material that someone is trying to bring into Canada.
June 28, 1988
Unfortunately matters are not quite as simple as the Minister who has just spoken would have us believe. The Minister is bringing before the House Bill C-135, which at first sight is designed simply to extend the definition for this tariff code for one year.
However, things are a little more complicated than that, and Bill C-135, which is being brought in by the governement, is intended not merely to extend the tariff code but also to conceal the government's failure to bring before the House a real bill dealing with pornography and hate literature.
This is not the first time the government has brought back to us a measure aimed at extending these provisions. To sketch in the background of the situation, Mr. Speaker,...
You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that under the Customs Tariff Act customs officials are empowered to forbid entry into Canada of material of an immoral or indecent character. The definition of what constituted obscene material under the Customs Tariff Act used to be broader than the definition of obscenity contained in Section 159(8) of the Criminal Code.
This did not pose a problem until March, 1985 when the Federal Court of Appeal found that the obscenity provisions of the Customs Tariff Act were so vague as to be an unreasonable limit on the freedom of expression guarantee contained in Section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Therefore the court struck down these provisions and, until Parliament acted in April, 1985, there were no restrictions on the importation of obscene materials.
The Tory Government came into power and in April, 1985, instead of bringing in comprehensive legislation dealing not only with the entry into Canada and the dissemination within Canada but with the printing in Canada, the showing of obscene materials, and the dissemination of hate propaganda material, the Government decided to operate by way of a stopgap measure which at the time was known as Bill C-38. Bill C-38 in fact incorporated the obscenity and hate propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code into the Customs Tariff Act. I think the Minister will have to agree that this is what happened in April, 1985.
The problem is that Bill C-38 was introduced for only one year and it lapsed on June 13, 1986. In other words, during the course of that one year the Government did not find time to put together a comprehensive piece of legislation dealing with obscene material, with pornography, and with hate literature.
What did it do a year later since it had not found the time to do the proper thing? It brought before the House Bill C-111, as Your Honour may remember, because Your Honour is very assiduous in attending this House. Your Honour must remember that in June, 1986 Bill C-l 11 was brought in, which
Bill extended the application of these obscenity and propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code and the Customs Tariff Act until December 31, 1987.
However, after a second year the Government had not yet brought before the House and passed a proper piece of legislation, so what did it do? In December, 1987 it came forward with Bill C-87 to extend further the stop-gap measure by one year.
What is happening this year? The Government is bringing forward Bill C-135 to further extend the provisions by one year. The real reason for all these extensions is the failure of the Government to pass new pornography legislation which would address the definition problems contained in both the Criminal Code and the Customs Tariff Act.
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that the Government's new pornography legislation, Bill C-54, which I must admit it tried to pass through the House, did not wash. The legislation was decried. It was criticized by several elements in our society. It was depicted as backwards and Victorian. I also remember Members in this very House saying that it went much too far, that it would impose undue constraints even on libraries which would have to post signs stating that certain books contain material purported to be either obscene or pornographic because of an ill-advised piece of legislation, Bill C-54. In the opinion of some it would even criminalize normal adult sexual activity.
What happened is very simple: the government did not pass Bill C-54, it left it on the Order Paper. The government saw the country was against Bill C-5 and it didn't try to get it passed.
So today we have reached a point where the last extension of a definition of obscenity, of pornography, which allowed our customs officers to stop such material at the border, is running out, since Bill C-97, which was brought in last year, "expires" this week, on June 30, in two days, in other words, as it's already June 28.
The government, having failed to bring in a reasonable piece of legislation, containing definitions of pornography that would be acceptable in Canada (unlike Bill C-54, which was not acceptable to a majority of Canadians), now finds itself obliged once again to extend this provision for a year, to gain time. I don't wish to impute motives to the government, but this does give the impression that the government is trying to buy time so it can come before the people at the next election without really having tackled the problem of pornography in Canada, without having done its duty by bringing in legislation that would also cover hate literature.
This is what really lies behind Bill C-135, which at first sight is perfectly innocuous since it consists of exactly one line. I'll read it to you, Mr. Speaker, it's extremely simple. It has only the one clause, clause 1, which reads as follows:
June 28, 1988
Code 9956 in Schedule VII to the Customs Tariff is amended by striking
out the works following paragraph (d) thereof and substituting the following
and I quote:
"(This code expires December 31,1989.)"
So all this mysterious language, which at first sight seems very simple, contitutes not just an extension of a customs tariff but a way for the Government to shirk its responsibilities and try to make it to the next elections without really having tackled the problem of pornography and hate literature in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, it is regrettable that the Government is putting off the admission that it made a mistake in presenting an unacceptable piece of legislation like Bill C-54, and putting off the drafting of another bill that would be more reasonable, more in line with the views of the majority of Canadians today, in the Canada we live in now. It is quite obvious that without an adequate bill defining appropriately what is obscene, what is pornographic, we don't have much choice but to vote for this extension of the customs tariff, so that at least unacceptable pornographic material doesn't get into Canada from other countries. But that doesn't really solve the problem of pornography, which can be home-grown. The government is evading its responsibilities.
It is thus with regret that we are going to support Bill C-135, but I wanted to review for you, Mr. Speaker, all the events that led up to this Bill, events the Government has no right to be proud of.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CUSTOMS TARIFF