What would YOU do?

If you were in a position to issue recommendations to the Canadian government you knew would significantly diminish the risk of childhood exposure to violent and sexually degrading content, would you?

My guess is that 90% of people would be 100% in support of this.

And yet the Standing Committee on Health has decidedly chosen not to concern themselves with the health of children —nor for that matter the culture of violence against women as it pertains to unrestricted access to all forms of pornography. The long anticipated results of the M-47 study are in and they are absolutely deflating.

Mandated to examine public health effects

As you may recall, the committee was mandated 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. This study had incredible potential to lead out as the defining report to help inform future government policy in this area.  This is an issue that had not been addressed in Parliament since 1985! We were long past due.

Tragically, the recommendations put forward by the main committee lack any initiative to directly protect children from unnecessary and harmful exposure to pornography.  In fact, I would argue that they could exacerbate the problem. The full report can be found here.

Summary of recommendations

The first three recommendations place a heavy emphasis on updating Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education. There were also suggestions put forward by members of the committee to make this mandatory —meaning parents could lose the right to have children opt-out of sex-ed programs in public schools. Plus, there is an unmistakable push to provide supplementary information for young people to learn about the different spectrum of sexual expressions.

None of the recommendations suggest teaching young people about the physical, cultural and social harms to which the regular use of pornography directly contributes.

Neglectful and cowardly

Some reform to sexual education may be necessary in the overall plan. But to suggest it is the solution is both neglectful and cowardly.  How can we expect to improve social attitudes towards sexual violence while our young people are being fed a steady stream of it online? That’s akin to promoting nutrition but serving a diet of pizza and fries in the cafeteria every day. You simply cannot have it both ways. We need to take a stand and say out loud: pornography harms!

Conservative members of the committee are equally appalled  with the results. In fact, they have put forward a dissenting report highlighting evidence the main report ignores. This report heavily criticizes the main committee for failing to take this study seriously.  Here are some of the tactics used by the main committee to sabotage this resolution:

  • The study was limited to only four meetings, significantly limiting the number of witnesses that could appear.
  • After hearing all the testimony, the committee adopted a formal motion to only include in the final report evidence that was provided by individuals with published peer-reviewed scientific research.
  • Testimony has been excluded from witnesses who work with individuals most impacted by violent and degrading sexually explicit materials.
  • The final report relies heavily on the testimony of two witnesses, one who cites most of his research from before 1995; the other whose research consisted of interviewing only 12 individuals between the ages of 18 and 29.

Adding insult to injury

The final recommendation put forward by the main committee has about as much backbone as a wet noodle. It suggests that tech corporations work’ to create better content filters and tools. This completely shifts the responsibility from government to big business. We need look no further than our experience with the tobacco industry to understand that it is not in the interest of corporations to regulate themselves. They are in business to make money. Public health is secondary to that objective.

Ignoring the obvious

A better recommendation would be to follow the recent government actions of the United Kingdom, a suggestion made by several witnesses. The UK is in the process of enacting laws that would prevent children and youth from accessing sexually explicit materials online. They will do this through meaningful age verification and opt-in/opt-out programs.

An “opt-out” program involves working with internet service providers (ISPs) to filter adult content at their end. Such filters would be active by default unless an adult customer calls to “opt-out” of the program. The request for unfiltered internet access could be granted with valid age verification.

Despite overwhelming evidence

Mr. Vierson, the MP who introduced M-47, points out the report’s flawed claim that there is ‘significant’ debate surrounding academic research in this area of study. This is despite overwhelming evidence from the witnesses plus submitted briefs to the contrary. Furthermore, there was not a single witness who disputed the negative public health impact on youth  in regards to the access and viewing of violent pornography.

It does cause one to pause and speculate exactly what is the main committee’s motivation for presenting such a weak report. Why would anyone not want to support the basic measures that could significantly reduce young people’s access to pornography?

120 days to make an impact

The good news is we still have a chance to change this report. However, unless enough voices speak up it will not have the impact we need. It is time for all concerned citizens to take action!

The fact that a dissenting report was included gives us a foothold. We now have 120 days to plead our case. At that time the government will reply to the report’s recommendations. Let your MP know you are dissatisfied with the main committees recommendations. Tell them you expect the following essential items to be included in the final report:

  • Introduce meaningful age verification
  • Update sexual health curriculum with warnings about pornography
  • Work with industry to develop Opt-In Filters
  • Provide funding for more research
  • Develop a Public Health Awareness Campaign
  • Develop Education/Tools for Parents

LIKE AND SHARE

If you could only share one post from our blog that has the power to initiate change and impact the future, this is it.  We have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children today as well as their future wellbeing. Write to your MP now! Get your friends and family on board. This is urgent!

Important Contacts

To find your local Members of Parliament, please consult the Current Members of Parliament directory on the Parliament of Canada’s website.

We also suggest copying the Conservative Chair of the HESA Committee, MP Colin Carrie colin.carrie@parl.gc.ca as well as MP Arnold Viersen arnold.viersen@parl.gc.ca

Sample Letter

If you are not quite sure how to get started we’d like to help. Use your own words and speak from the heart. Remember to give your MP an action item for which you expect to receive a follow up email. You are also welcome to use the following template:

Dear Mr/Ms ____________

I am a member of your riding living in the southern end of Kawartha Lakes.

It has come to my attention that the Standing Committee on Health has recently released a REPORT ON THE PUBLIC HEALTH EFFECTS OF THE EASE OF ACCESS AND VIEWING OF ONLINE VIOLENT AND DEGRADING SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL ON CHILDREN, WOMEN AND MEN.

I have reviewed the four recommendations outlined by the committee. The report has left me in shock and dismay. The committee should be ashamed to present such an inadequate report to government —one that I can only assume satisfies an agenda to continue unrestricted online access of porn by children.

To debate the health consequences of pornography on adults is one thing, but to even question it when it comes to children is absurd! These are young, developing  minds we are considering. The government of Canada needs to stand up to act in their best interest.

To support and improve the health and wellbeing of children the report would have to include the following recommendations:

  • Introduce meaningful age verification
  • Update sexual health curriculum with warnings about pornography
  • Work with industry to develop Opt-In Filters
  • Provide funding for more research
  • Develop a Public Health Awareness Campaign
  • Develop Education/Tools for Parents

As you know, we have an extremely limited window of time until this report is presented before Parliament. I expect you will treat this matter with utmost importance. A study of this kind has not been done since 1985. We cannot afford to wait another 30 years before we take concrete steps to protect our children online.

Please let me know what immediate action you plan to take in this matter.

Sincerely,

C_________

 

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

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