Welcome to this 23rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, October 16, 2007, Bill , an act to amend the Broadcasting Act in regard to reduction of violence in television broadcasts.
We welcome today Mr. René Caron.
Sir, I'm glad we could make it available that you could be here today. I understand that you didn't trust the train today; you brought a bus, because the train went backwards the last time.
We're going to try to hold this part of the meeting to about 45 minutes. You have about 10 minutes to make your address. I'm sorry for the shortness of time, but we do have eight young Canadians coming in following you, sir, and we have to make some time for them also.
Welcome to our committee, and please bring your words forward.
Before you is a signatory of a petition by over a million Canadians who have reacted to the terrible tragedy that took place at the École Polytechnique de Montréal on December 6, 1989. Fourteen young women students were murdered and ten others wounded by an insane shooter.
Like so many other Canadians, I wondered what I should do to make sure that this kind of massacre never happened again in our society, which we thought of at the time as tolerant and non-violent. When I learned that young Virginie Larivière had started a petition to have broadcasters and the CRTC commit to taking the necessary steps to impose stringent regulations requiring that the monstrous violent films, and the programs where people kill one another instead of helping one another, be shown on television after 9 p.m., I knew that something serious and positive had to be done.
In Quebec City in March 1990, I organized a meeting of Optimist clubs and teachers, and we decided to form a non-profit association to make sure that follow-up action was taken on the petition signed by a million Canadians. Virginie Larivière had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada, who said he was impressed by her initiative and assured her that it would not be ignored.
We all know that acts of violence have risen by 432% since 2001 on Quebec's private networks, and that, at present, over 80% of acts of violence are broadcast before 9 p.m. That is why Association T.R.O.P.-P.E.A.C.E has worked in the schools and with parents for the last 18 years in a public education campaign, to get them to think about what they are absorbing from their screens, whether on television, in video games or on the Internet.
We have formed a partnership devoted to this important and necessary mission: the Optimist clubs of Quebec and eastern Ontario, the Knights of Columbus and the CSQ in Quebec.
Nothing tangible was done by the appropriate authorities, and so we had to make our own efforts to achieve a better society. You know, as do we, that our young people are the most vulnerable victims, and that massacres like what happened at the Polytechnique have been almost everyday occurrences in our neighbour to the south, and even here in Canada.
Association T.R.O.P.-PEACE—T stands for Travail, R for Réflexion, O for Ondes, P for Pacifiques, P for Positive, E for Entertainment, A for Alternatives, C for Children and E for Everywhere—understands the clear negative effects of violence on television, and endorses the brief filed with the United States Congress in June 2000, in which those effects are identified and proved by physicians, pediatricians, psychologists and psychiatrists.
They joined forces to say that violence on television leads to an increase in youth violence. Over a thousand studies have established the cause and effect relationship between exposure to violence on television and aggression in some children.
We are not specialists, but like thousands of parents and educators we have met over the last 18 years, we believe that television violence invades children's imaginations, heightens their fears, interferes with their academic learning and contributes to higher crime rates later. Violence on television contributes to desensitizing children to real violence and the suffering of victims.
Regulating violence on television does nothing to hinder the artistic expression of the creative community. This is not censorship. But we believe that the existing legislation should be amended to regulate the times at which violent programming may be broadcast, to protect our children.
With all due respect to certain producers and broadcasters, we believe what the healthcare professionals have to say about this. Violence on television has an undeniable influence on all children. It does not transform every child into a criminal and it is not the only thing that influences children. But the studies that have been done all lead to the same conclusion: the risks it creates for a growing number of children will some day have consequences for our entire society's quality of life and feelings of safety.
I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for giving me the opportunity to convey the opinion of thousands of Canadian parents and teachers who care about taking non-violence and respect seriously and doing something about them today, and who hope to inspire the best in our young people.
In fact, Optimist International, the umbrella group for hundreds of thousands of members, the real friends of youth, is preparing to give official recognition to our campaign to raise awareness for non-violence and respect, as the YMCA Canada has already done.
We have to remain clear-eyed if we are to be able to make important decisions. The time for this has come. When the choice is between the broadcasters' freedom and children's safety, it is children's safety that should take priority. That is not the case now. Broadcasters refuse to acknowledge that priority. Like thousands of others who think as we do, we believe that the government has the responsibility of regulating the times at which violent programming may be broadcast, to protect our children.
As I conclude my presentation, I add an important observation. Amending the legislation on broadcast times would, seriously and unequivocally, be much more than reasonable.
That is an excellent question that brings back fond memories.
Ms. Larivière was sponsored by the Optimist club near her home. When she set about gathering signatures for her petition across Canada, she needed people to distribute it for her. She did not knock on doors from here to Vancouver to get a more than a million people to sign. Getting those million signatures and more took help from, among others, the Optimist clubs, the Knights of Columbus and other service club organizations. Then the Prime Minister met with her in Parliament.
That was where my involvement began. I saw that nothing was being done afterwards. I said to myself that what needed to be done then was a concerted attempt to convince children, who are perfectly intelligent, to think about what they were consuming.
Thank you for being here today, Mr. Caron. Listening to you really gladdens my heart. Since we began this study, several witnesses have come through here. Most of them have said that the present system of "regulation" works very well, that there was no need for a new way of doing things, that the bill was censorship and that, when all is said and done, there was no use creating a problem where none exists.
I mentioned that one and a half million people signed the petition, showing that the public is concerned about it. One witness particularly, who shall remain nameless, dismissed that out of hand. He said that, a million and a half signatures or not, there was no problem.
What do you think? Is there a problem, or are we just deluding ourselves?
Thank you for being here this afternoon, Monsieur Caron. I was also glad to hear before the meeting started that you received a warm welcome on the Hill today from your many fans who recognized you from your television career. I'm glad the day started out well for you here on the Hill.
I appreciate the presentation you made. I have visited the website and looked at the English document that's there for folks to take a look at. It's a very helpful document. There's sort of an elucidation of your comments around the concern that you don't see this as a question of censorship, but a question of regulating the time violent programming is available on television.
Is that the only kind of regulation you would support--when violent television is broadcast? Are you talking about other kinds of regulations around television programming?
You mention radio stations. I started doing radio when I was 14, about 70 years ago. Radio was better then than it is today. I regret that and I find it unfortunate to see radio stations allowing, for example, so-called comedians swearing and saying terrible things on the air. Kids have their headsets these days and they hear those things. I feel the same way about the stories on television or video games. There are good video games, just like there are good things on the Internet.
The other day, a young girl told me that she had learned five languages, including Russian. I asked her where she had learned Russian. She said that she had learned it on the Internet. She had even learned how to pronounce it. You cannot tell kids that you forbid them to do something. You have to say "suggest", because the moment you forbid children to do something, they will go and do it. But if you make a suggestion, you are engaging them and getting them on your side. Perhaps you are getting somewhere with them.
I always come back to the identity card I mentioned. I went to congratulate the students after the three months. Well, if this big fifteen-year-old guy did not get up and use an expression that I have not heard for a long time. He said that he was the kind of guy who could easily freak out. He meant that he had a terrible attitude and got angry for any little reason. He went on to say that, thanks to some people, whom he mentioned by name, he had managed to improve and that he really wanted to thank them. Some girls were so surprised that they went over to give him a kiss. It was not staged, it had not been prepared. But the improvement had still been recognized in an official way.
Mr. Caron, I want to congratulate you. I'm sure there are some other things that might be of interest to you at 82 years of age. I really commend you for your commitment to this.
I also commend the people you represent. I think bringing this forward to Parliament is exactly the right thing to be doing. I note the number of organizations you represent.
The objective of this committee, however, is to determine if this bill will achieve its objective. I'd like to say, certainly on behalf of the government, that the government and the government members here share your concern, but that isn't the issue. The issue is whether this particular bill will actually achieve the objective that you're out to achieve.
In order to help us come to that conclusion, since you named off a few facts, I would like our researchers to know what those sources were. You said 80% of violence is before 9 p.m. The second thing you said, amongst many others, is that thousands of studies show cause and effect.
Can you help our researchers with the background for those two assertions that you've made?
Okay. Well, if you can help us by getting any of this background to our researchers, that would be very helpful.
There's a bit of a problem that we're running into in terms of technology now, and that is with satellite--Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice--and the other part of the cable programming. I happen to live a two-hour time zone from Ottawa. In fact, most of the province I come from is three hours' time difference from Ottawa. It's four hours' time difference from Halifax and four and a half hours from St. John's.
With that, children in British Columbia can easily go onto their satellite or their cable, and if we shut down the violent programming that we're aiming at here in Halifax at 9 p.m., that becomes 5 p.m. in Vancouver. Do you have any suggestions for how we would get around this time shifting? Obviously, the children have access to this kind of violent programming at a time that's four to four and a half hours different from the other side of our great country.
In trying to hit this target of violence on television, you also mentioned video games, Internet, obviously DVDs, and other things that children can bring home. If this hits the television, and if we just apply the number of 20%, say, just for the sake of having this discussion, in terms of what the children would be subjected to--other than video games, the Internet, DVDs, and other forms of entertainment--do you think it would be worthwhile going ahead with this legislation when it has the outside potential of possibly hitting about 20% of the problem?
If we cannot control the liberties that broadcasters take, how do we imagine that, one day, we will be able to control the abuse that is happening on the Internet, like the fraudsters and pedophiles who are running wild on an international scale?
When I was young, I would never have thought that, one day, someone could provoke a real fight between some young people, capture it on a cellphone, post it on the Internet and then brag about having done so. Perhaps you may say that these are strong words, but I think that the advent of all these technologies has made our society sick and deranged.
We could start by focusing on what broadcasters are showing to our young people, by making sure that the regulations are observed and that they are clear, not just for legislators, but for the public in general.
I'm going to call on everyone to please take your seats if you can.
I'd like to welcome our young witnesses. You don't have to be nervous today. I'm a grandpa, so you don't have to worry about me. I have grandchildren not quite as old as some of the oldest here, but as old as some of the younger.
I would like to welcome all the young witnesses who have joined us today. I will start our session by sharing a few things with you to help inform our discussion.
As you may already know, the committee has been looking at , which proposes new regulations to limit the amount of violent content available on television.
We are here today to learn from you, since you know best what you like to watch and why. Many of our meetings so far have focused on young people and the extent to which television programming made for young people needs to have greater oversight. We have also heard that youth are watching more and more violent content on the Internet, on websites such as YouTube. Because of this, it has been suggested that it is more important that young people learn for themselves how to make good choices about what they watch rather than having us attempt to determine the choices for you.
We have invited you here today because we want to learn directly from you about your experiences and your understanding of the programming that you like to watch. We would like to hear what you think about the need for rules to protect you from unsuitable content, particularly that which contains violence. We would also like to hear from you about the people who have helped you to make choices about the programs you watch.
Our hope today is for a productive and informative conversation among us all.
Thank you very much for coming today.
One thing I'd just like to let you know is that at 5:15 we are going to have bells because there's a vote at 5:30, but don't let the bells bother you; we'll carry on. We hope to carry on very close to 5:30 because we only have to go down the hall, and we want to make the most of your presence here with us today.
One thing I am going to ask is that as we go around with our questions, I would ask the witnesses--you young people here today--to put your hand up, just like in school, if you have an answer, and I'll try to get to you. Try to keep your answers as short as you can. I'm going to ask the people around the table to keep the questions as concise as we can.
First of all, I'll ask you to introduce yourselves. Just say who you are and your age if you could, please.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks to the committee members for accepting the suggestion.
Thank you to Maxime, Myriam, Jordan, Victoria, Jacqueline, Patrick and Noémie for being here today. Thank you also to their parents for agreeing to be part of this exercise.
You can speak English or French and you can follow here.
We have to study a bill that asks for less violence on television before 9:00 p.m. After 9:00 p.m., no one sees any problem. We have heard from teachers, from parents and from people that make television programs, and we thought that it would also be interesting to hear from you.
What I want to know is, what are your habits? I've talked to one of you.
I spoke to Patrick. He told me—and I hope this is not going to get you into trouble with your father—that he watches Trailer Park Boys that airs after 9:00 p.m.
Patrick, can you tell us how you watch Trailer Park Boys?
Hi, guys. Thank you for coming. I am going to talk to you in French, but you can answer me in English; it is no problem at all.
Patrick, Victoria, Jacqueline and Noémie, you said that you watch movies or play violent games, but that your parents do not really supervise what you are doing. Patrick, you go on the Internet to watch shows that are on television after 9:00 p.m. Do you think that, because you are older now, you can choose your own television programs, games and so on? You are teenagers, after all.
My name is Michael. Just to give you a bit of background, I live on a farm just outside of Toronto. Believe it or not, we can't get cable or high-speed Internet access, so if any of you don't have high-speed Internet access you shouldn't be embarrassed either, because we can't get it. And we've chosen not to get satellite TV, so we have what my wife calls “cow cable”, which is a big stickly antennae sticking up the side of the house.
I wanted to ask you all whether or not you have high-speed Internet access at home.
Maybe we could just start with Victoria and continue.
I think increasingly most people in Canada have access to high-speed Internet.
My other question is, do any of you have a computer in your bedroom? If anybody does, maybe just raise your hand and answer the question that way.
I see that three of you have computers in your bedroom, which I'm assuming are yours to use, and all of you have high-speed Internet access.
Do all of you have cable or satellite? Because you have high-speed Internet access, I'm assuming that you probably also have cable and satellite in your home.
Does anybody here not have cable or satellite in your home?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Before I begin, I would like to move that we all donate to a satellite dish for Michael.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Hon. Hedy Fry: I want to thank you so much for coming, because I think you can give us a perspective and a look at television from a very different point of view, and that is your own point of view.
Can I ask you a couple of questions?
Do any of you have limits? Do your parents say you can only watch x hours of T. on a school night and x hours of TV on a weekend?
You've changed your mind.
You know why we're asking you these questions. We're asking you these questions because it is suggested that there's too much violence on television, and that in fact there shouldn't be so much violence.
What I want to know is if you, from the youngest of you to the oldest of you, are capable of understanding the difference between violence in reality on the news and violence in a film. If so, do you think there is too much violence? If you think so, what do you think we should do about it? Why don't I ask everyone to give me a quick answer on it?
Would you comment, Victoria?
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to each one of you for coming today and sharing with us how you feel about violence and violence on television. It would also be interesting to hear what your parents have to say, because some of them are in attendance. I'd love to hear their perspective on TV violence.
The reason you're here is because there is a law before us right now that we're considering, which would give government new powers to keep you from watching certain violent programs before 9 o'clock. There are some people who believe there is still too much violence in the time period before 9 o'clock.
My question to each one of you—and maybe you could answer just yes or no—is, do you feel that there are programs that should be removed from the viewing slot before 9 p.m., or are you comfortable already with the kinds of restrictions and the kinds of programs shown during that time period?
Perhaps we could start with Noémie.
We still have a little bit of time.
A voice: We were told that you had questions.
The Chair: Grandpa should ask a question.
Do you know what grandpa got for Christmas? He got PlayStation 2. Do you know what he plays? He plays golf with grandma, and grandma has been practising more than grandpa and she beats him.
I must say that I watch my children--they're mothers and fathers--with our grandkids. They are a little bit restrictive in what they can watch and when they can watch it.
I am very pleased that we have been able to have you here today. I do understand where you are and where parents have a place in our families. I applaud your parents for their tenacity and for the way they have brought you all up. You've been tremendous witnesses here today.
I must thank Mr. Bélanger. This is his last meeting at Heritage. He's going to take a little hiatus from this committee, but I thank him very much for the suggestion.
I thank you very much, and your parents, for allowing you to come today to be such great witnesses. You have been very honest with this committee.
Thank you again.
As the chair, I invite you to have some cookies or juice or whatever. Please enjoy.
We are going to slide down the hall and have a vote here as we go forward.
Thanks again. You've been great people to be in front of our committee today.
The Chair: The meeting is adjourned.