That the Standing Committee on Health be instructed to examine the public health effects of the ease of access and viewing of online violent and degrading sexually explicit material on children, women and men … and that the said Committee report its findings to the House no later than July 2017.     —Motion, M-47

As promised, ParentsAware is here to provide regular updates on the progress of the recently adopted Parliamentary Motion, M-47. MP Arnold Veirsen introduced this Motion (March 8, 2016) and continues to be at the forefront of this issue.

Here’s what we know today:

  • Since the adoption of Motion M-47 by Parliament (Dec 9, 2016), M-47 technically no longer exists.
  • As a result of the adoption of Motion M-47, the Health Committee is now required to undertake a study on pornography.
  • Because Motion M-47 included a date of July 2017 by which the study had to be completed, the Health Committee is moving very quickly on this issue.
  • To ensure that this study receives the attention it deserves, Veirsen asks that we email members of the Health Committee to undertake a rigorous study on pornography.

On Feb. 7 we received notice from Viersen’s office that he would be speaking at the Health Committee at 11:00am EST and making the case for a robust and in-depth study. The session was broadcast. Use this link to watch the video or read the transcript.

Eager to get a better understanding of how the committee plans to proceed with the study, I tuned in to watch.  During the hour-long session Viersen was allotted 10 minutes to refresh the Health Committee on the key issues surrounding the study. The floor was then opened to the MPs on the committee to ask Viersen questions, highlight any concerns, and seek clarification as to the Health Committee’s role in this matter.  

What is the role of the Standing Committee on Health?

Along with inquiries, many of the MPs expressed support for the study; some acknowledging that it was long overdue. I found this very encouraging.

However a few individuals, notably MP Ramez Ayoub of Quebec and MP Don Davis of British Columbia, were more agitated and asked questions I felt were designed to distract from the focus of this study. Viersen responded well each time and kept returning to the significance of viewing this study from the lens of a health concern which impacts all Canadians.

Calgary MP Len Webber pointed out the Health Committee is not in the business of doing research. Therefore, their role is to collect evidence and confirm that there is a problem. The committee will arrive at their decision by listening to the testimony of expert witnesses over the course of the study.

The need for a Public Health Model

By definition, Public Health aims to provide the maximum benefit for the largest number of people. When Brampton MP Sonia Sidhu asked Veirsen why the committee should address this particular issue ahead of other relevant and pressing health concerns, Viersen reminded the committee that because of the ease of access to internet pornography every Canadian is being impacted in one way or another by the violent and degrading sexually explicit material available online. He notes that:

  • Almost 90% of mainstream pornographic content features violence towards women and is a threat to women’s equality.
  • Child and adolescent exposure to pornography is a form of child abuse.
  • Exposure to violent sexual material is harmful to physical and mental health of individuals, especially adolescents.
  • Adolescents who viewed violent sexually explicit material were six times more likely to self-report engaging in sexually aggressive behaviour.
  • Youth who regularly view online sexually explicit material are significantly more likely to hold negative gender attitudes.

What is the role of parents?

When Manitoba MP Doug Eyolfson asked what he felt was the role of parents in protecting children from negative online content, Viersen reaffirmed that parents should always be the first line of defense.  However, he warned that should not exempt the State from fulfilling its responsibility. The Federal government should be expected to provide parents with up-to-date information on the most significant health concerns and offer adequate resources. Viersen is asking the committee to look at the Public Health Models initiated for tobacco and alcohol as a way to support parents and shape public opinion.

He reminded the committee that research of leading health organizations proving the health risks of tobacco use was largely ignored or buried until government stepped in to aggressively inform the public. Thanks to that intervention, we now have a stigma attached to tobacco use that didn’t exist before. Tobacco use in Canada has dropped 50% in the past 30 years, which is a staggering number. We need similar attitudes surrounding the portrayal of degrading and violent sexual acts towards women and children.

What is the role of government?

Vancouver MP Don Davis was particularly eager to discuss the issue from a legislative approach. Yet, throughout the session Veirsen frequently emphasized that no amount of legislation could work us out of this problem. What is needed instead is a cultural shift in attitude toward pornography and violence towards women. He continued to plead for public recognition that when violent and degrading sexually explicit material is left unchecked, we put the health of many of our citizens at risk. Viersen insists that it is the government’s role to initiate this cultural shift in perspective.

Calgary MP Tom Kmiec questioned Veirsen on how he felt this study could impact the $97 billion global porn industry.  He was particularly concerned with the disturbing practice he has learned of in countries such as the Philippines where young children are forced to engage in violent sexual acts. These acts are filmed live to consumers living elsewhere in the world —Canada included.

Recognizing the sensitivity of the subject matter, Viersen pointed out that there is a significant “production industry” here in Canada as well. He emphasized that when there is a market for a product, then that product (in this case children) will be made available to buyers. Viersen stressed this is exactly why it is imperative we change cultural attitudes towards pornography. When there is no market, the product disappears.

Canada has an opportunity with this study to become a world leader in the protection of children from sexual exploitation for the benefit of pornography.

What is meant by a robust study?

Several of the MPs questioned what Viersen meant when he asked them to carry out a robust study.  He noted that he, personally, has a list of more than 100 people willing to present themselves as witnesses. Viersen calculated it would take 6-10 sessions to conduct a thorough study. Acknowledging that the committee would likely have their own list of witnesses, his only specific guidelines were to encourage the committee to adequately listen to all of these expert witnesses. 

When asked what Viersen hoped would come of this study, he reinforced the importance considering the Public Health Model as outlined by the World Health Organization. He then proceeded to give an action packed list of resolutions that could come from this model:

  • Government Lead Public Health Campaign
  • Funding for media safety programs in schools
  • Training for Health Care providers to recognize signs of use and abuse
  • More treatment and funding for individuals caught in an addictive cycle of use
  • Online age verification
  • Informed consent;
  • Strengthening of obscenity laws
  • Education systems across Canada addressing this issue
  • The collaboration of all provincial health and education ministers to put this issue at the forefront of their agendas.

What you can do TODAY!

Let’s continue to work together through social media and letter writing to build a momentum that could change the course of history.  To show support for this important study pick at least one of the action items listed below.

Action Items:

  • Like and share this article. Continue to talk to others about violent sexually explicit material and encourage them to make their voice heard.
  • Contact members of the Standing Committee on Health. Tell them why this study is so important to you and ask them to undertake a rigorous study of pornography.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local or a national paper. Ask them why they have failed to cover an issue as significant as the first federal study to evaluate the impact of internet pornography on violence acts committed against women and children in Canada.

To find out which MPs comprise the Standing Committee on Health visit www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/HESA/Members Select a MP closest to your riding. Also, Vierson’s office suggests addressing MP Colin Carrie the Conservative Chair of the committee colin.carrie@parl.gc.ca.

Remember: Postage is NOT required to mail letters to a Member of Parliament. Letters can be addressed using the following examples:

Joe Smith, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Standing Committee on Health
Sixth Floor, 131 Queen Street
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

“Parliamentarians have a responsibility to develop policy that fosters the healthy development of youth, increases child protection online, and reduces violence against women and girls.”      —Arnold Viersen

 

Marilyn

Marilyn

Marilyn Evans lives east of Toronto with her husband and five sons. Concerned with the ease of access to online pornography, she began searching for ways to address this subject with her own children. The lack of support and information available to parents at that time compelled her to begin speaking out publicly on the subject. It's her hope that parentsaware.info will provide families with a resource they can turn to for answers on how to speak openly and honestly with their children. You can follow @parentsaware on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Marilyn

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *