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Introduction:

This dissenting report represents the views of the Conservative Members of the Committee.

This study had the potential to lead to a defining report on a growing public health concern.  Parliament has not studied the issue since 1985, over a decade before the internet made sexually explicit materials widely available to Canadians of all ages.

There were initial signs that this study was going to achieve this goal.  The House of Commons unanimously supported M-47.[1] The leader of the Green Party was a co-sponsor of the motion. There were many supportive statements from members of the New Democratic Party.[2]  As well, Ms. Kamal Khera, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, stated during the debate: “A study by the Standing Committee on Health would provide an opportunity to hear from experts, researchers, and advocates for those affected by online violence and degrading sexually explicit material.  Understanding the health effects of accessing and viewing violent and degrading sexually explicit online material and physical and sexual violence in Canada would help to inform future government policy development in this area.”[3]

Other House of Commons Standing Committees have recognized the gravity of violent and degrading pornography. For example, the Status of Women Committee “recommended that the federal government should develop a public awareness campaign for the general public and develop an “opt-in” internet model to be implemented in Canada.[4]

However, once M-47 was referred to the Standing Committee on Health, it became apparent that  members on the committee were not going to treat the subject with the seriousness it deserves.

The committee limited the study to only four meetings, thereby arbitrarily limiting the number of witnesses that could appear. Further, once the hearings were concluded, the committee adopted a formal motion to limit evidence that could be included in the final report to only evidence that was provided by individuals with published peer-reviewed scientific research.[5] Such a narrow focus excluded witnesses who work with individuals who have been most impacted by violent and degrading sexually explicit materials.

The final report  of this committee relies heavily on the testimony of two witnesses, one whom cites most of his research from before 1995[6] and the other whose research consisted of interviewing only 12 individuals between the ages of 18 and 29.[7]  This would have provided much more balance had the views of more witnesses been included in the final report.

Defining the problem:

1.    Defining ‘violent’ and ‘degrading’

The final report notes that it is difficult to separate violent sexual material from general sexually explicit materials, particularly when determining impact.[8] For this reason, it is concerning that witnesses who testified that a large portion of online pornography is violent and degrading were largely ignored and much of their testimony was omitted from the report.[9] 

As one witness stated at committee, “The Supreme Court of Canada cited our research and other research in the famous Butler case to change the law. In fact, it said the weight of the evidence is sufficient to show that violent pornography does have the kinds of effects that Canadians should be concerned about in terms of attitudes about women and the potential, at least, for violence against women.”[10]

2.    Determining if a Public Health Response is Needed

The committee heard that violent and degrading pornography has a causal relationship with sexual aggression.  Those witnesses, who did not agree that violent and sexually explicit material had a causal impact on sexual aggression, did note that such material amplifies pre-existing aggressive tendencies.[11]

Public Health Impact on Women:

The final report is silent on the contribution of violent and degrading pornography to rape culture. The committee heard ample evidence that violent and degrading pornography generally objectifies women, subjects women to violent acts, and normalizes a subservient position for women in the minds of some viewers.[12],[13] There was further evidence presented to the committee that repeated exposure to violent and degrading pornography desensitizes viewers to violence against women.[14],[15] Of the top three factors identified as connected with sexual violence, violent and degrading pornography ranked within the top three.[16]

Public Health Impact on Children:

The committee heard that pornography, including violent pornography, has a major impact on sexual norms for youth.[17],[18],[19] The committee heard that it is common for children to begin viewing pornography as young as the age of 11.[20]

The final report, however, is entirely silent on the evidence the committee heard about how violent and degrading explicit material can be used to facilitate criminal acts against children and has a causal relationship to peer-to-peer aggression amongst youth.  [21],[22],[23]

Therefore, taking action to ensure that children are protected from sexual violence, that youth have the protection and ability to develop positive sexual norms, and that youth are not drawn into criminal acts, are all matters of public health that were ignored by the committee’s report.

Public Health Impact on Men:

A number of witnesses testified that young boys are being shaped by violent and degrading sexually explicit material. [24],[25]  The committee heard that once a habit is formed that could last into adulthood. The committee heard that males who have habitually viewed violent and degrading sexual materials are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction, isolation, depression and anxiety. [26]

Conclusion and Recommendations:

The committee did hear from the majority of witnesses, both in oral testimony and in written submissions, that there is a role for government to play in preventing youth and children from accessing violent and degrading pornography. This approach would ensure that youth can develop healthy sexual norms before they are exposed to this material as adults.

The committee also heard, and the Conservative members agree with the members of the committee, that Criminal Code changes are not the answer.

In relation to the recommendations adopted by the full committee, Conservative members would also note the following:

  • Regarding committee recommendations 1 and 2, while Conservative members agree with updating the 2008 Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education and the development of a Canadian Sexual Health Promotion Strategy, we also caution that the federal government must be respectful of provincial jurisdiction in the field of education.  In addition, parental choice and autonomy must be recognized and respected.  Such material as referred to in recommendations 1 and 2 should be publicly available so that parents and guardians can utilize it as they see fit.
  • Regarding committee recommendation 4(B), we agree with this recommendation, but would also note that some witnesses suggested that Canada follow the recent actions of the United Kingdom to prevent children and youth from accessing sexually explicit materials.  Conservative members recommend that the government further explore such options in order to better protect children and youth. 
  • This could include working with internet service providers to provide adult content filters through the service provider, and that such filters could be active by default unless the adult customer opted out of using them.[27],[28],[29],[30],[31],[32],[33]
  • In addition, the implementation of meaningful age verification tools should be examined, while ensuring the privacy of Canadians is protected.[34],[35],[36],[37],[38],[39],[40],[41],[42],[43],[44],[45],[46],[47]

Given that it has been some time since this matter has been studied in any depth, and given that technology evolves at lightning speed, the Conservative members of the committee would also make the following recommendation:

  • That the Public Health Agency of Canada should provide increased funding to further understand the public health impacts of violent and degrading sexual content.[48],[49],[50],[51],[52],[53],[54]

Respectfully submitted.


[1] House of Commons, Journals, 42 Parliament 1st session, 8 December, 2016

[3] House of Commons, Hansard, 14 Nov 2016, 1150 (Kamal Khera, Member of Parliament

[4] Taking Action to End Violence Against Young Women and Girls in Canada, Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Report 7, 42nd Parliament, 1st session. 

[5] HESA, Minutes of Proceedings, 1st Session, 42nd Parliament, 2 May 2017

[6] HESA, Written Submission, 27, March, 2017 (Dr. Fisher)

[7] HESA, Handout, 23 March 2017, (PhD Student Kathleen Hare)

[8] HESA, Evidence, 23 March 2017, 1230 (PhD Student Kathleen Hare)

[9] Dr. Layden, Dr. Cooper, Cordelia Anderson, Dr. Dines

[10] HESA, Evidence, 4 April 2017, 1150 (Dr. Malamuth, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles)

[11] HESA, Evidence, 4 April 2017, 1120 (Dr. Malamuth, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles)

[12] Porn Harms Kids, “Brief Submitted by Culture Reframed to the Health Committee,” Submitted Brief, 2017

[13] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1110 (Dr. Dines, Professor and Chair of Women’s Studies at Wheelock College)

[14] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017,  1130 (Cordelia Anderson)

[15] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017,  1110 (Dr. Dines)

[16] HESA, Evidence, 23 March 2017, 1120 (Dr. Layden, Director -Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology, Uni. of Pennsylvania)

[17] Janet Zacharias, “Brief Submitted by Janet Zacharias to the Health Committee,” Submitted Brief, 2017

[18] Culture Reframed, “Brief Submitted by Culture Reframed to the Health Committee,” Submitted Brief, 2017

[19] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1220, 1235 (Dr. Sharon Cooper, CEO, Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics)

[20] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1110 (Dr. Dines, Professor and Chair of Women’s Studies at Wheelock College)

[21]  HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1100 (Lianna McDonald, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Child Protection)

[22] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1120 (Dr. Sharon Cooper, CEO, Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics)             

[23] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1130 (Cordelia Anderson MA, Sensibilities Prevention Services)

[24] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1115 (Dr. Dines, Professor and Chair of Women’s Studies at Wheelock College)

[25] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1130 (Cordelia Anderson MA, Sensibilities Prevention Services)

[26] Gary B. Wilson, “Brief Submitted by Gary B. Wilson to the Health Committee,” Submitted Brief, 2017

[27] Turning Point Counseling Services - Paul Lavergne, “M-47,” Submitted Brief, 9 March 2017.

[28] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1155 (Dr. Sharon Cooper, Chief Executive Officer, Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics).

[29] Defend Dignity – Glendyne Gerrard, “Pornography: A Public Health Crisis,” Submitted Brief, 21 March 2017.

[30] Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, “Submission on M47,” Submitted Brief, 22 March 2017.

[31] Women's Centres Connect, “Submission to Standing Committee on Health,” Submitted Brief, 2 February 2017.

[32] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1150 (Dr. Gail Dines, President, Culture Reframed).

[33] Porn Harms Kids - Liz Walker, “Brief Regarding M-47,” Submitted Brief, 22 March 2017.

[34] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1100 (Ms. Lianna McDonald, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Child Protection).

[35] Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope, “Should Pornography Be Regulated?” Submitted Brief, January 2017.

[36] Gary B. Wilson, “Brief Relating to Motion 47,” Submitted Brief, 16 February 2017.

[37] Turning Point Counseling Services - Paul Lavergne, “M-47,” Submitted Brief, 9 March 2017.

[38] TEN Broadcasting - Stuart Duncan, “Brief in Response to M-47,” Submitted Brief, 9 March 2017.

[39] Joseph Deschambault, “Re: Motion M-47,” Submitted Brief, 3 March 2017.

[40] Child Pornography Hurts - Charlene Doak-Gebauer, “Brief to the Committee on Health,” Submitted Brief, 21 March 2017.

[41] Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, “Submission on M-47,” Submitted Brief, 22 March 2017.

[42] Hope For The Sold – Michelle Brock, “Brief on Motion M-47,” Submitted Brief, 10 March 2017.

[43] WePROTECT Global Alliance - Ernie Allen, “Age Verification for Online Pornography,” Submitted Brief, 2 March 2017.

[44] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1145 (Dr. Sharon Cooper, CEO, Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics).

[45] Defend Dignity – Glendyne Gerrard, “Pornography: A Public Health Crisis,” Submitted Brief, 21 March 2017.

[46] Porn Harms Kids - Liz Walker, “Brief Regarding M-47,” Submitted Brief, 22 March 2017.

[47] HESA, Evidence, 11 April 2017, 1115 (Dr. Gail Dines, President, Culture Reframed).

[48] NoFap, Submitted Brief, March 21st 2017

[49] Defend Dignity, Submitted Brief, March 21st 2017

[50] Gary B. Wilson, Submitted Brief, February 16th  2017

[51] Janet Zacharias, Submitted Brief, March 7th 2017

[52] Reward Foundation, Submitted Brief, March 21st 2017