I call the meeting to order.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome.
We are going to have an exciting time today. The first exciting thing for me is that we have gender parity on our committee today for the first time. Welcome to Chris Bittle, Jean Rioux, and Garnett Genuis, who are joining us today. That's wonderful.
From the YMCA, we have Ann Decter, who is the director of advocacy and public policy, and Raine Liliefeldt, who is the director of member services and development. We also have, by video conference, Stephanie Guthrie, complainant in the R. v. Elliott criminal harassment trial at the Ontario Court of Justice.
Welcome to all of you, ladies. We'll have 10 minutes for Stephanie to speak, then we'll go to the YMCA for five minutes each, and then we'll go to our regular round of questioning.
Welcome, Stephanie. You can begin your 10 minutes.
Thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me to testify today.
My last experience giving testimony was during a criminal harassment proceeding against a man who tirelessly followed my movements online and sent a plethora of unwanted communication in my direction. Based on my experiences, I strongly believe that the criminal legal system is not a constructive way to address cyberviolence against women and girls. Criminalizing this behaviour is a reactive approach that will not end the suffering, and in fact in some cases is likely to prolong the suffering of women and girls online.
Finally, because of existing biases in our society and among our police, a criminalization approach stands to disproportionately penalize and incarcerate indigenous and racialized people while giving a pass or a cushier ride to middle-class white men who inflict cyberviolence. Like other people who have testified before this committee on this issue, I believe that the best way to prevent cyberviolence is early and lifelong education initiatives informed by research. I also believe that we need non-adversarial interventions for survivors that prioritize ending and acknowledging the harm, rather than punishing the persons who inflicted the harm and asking them to be accountable to the state rather than to their community and the survivors whom they have harmed.
While preparing me for my testimony in my own case, the crown prosecutor said something I'll never forget. She told me, “Remember, the only opinion that matters is the judge's.” To me, that statement was emblematic of many of the problems I encountered with the criminal legal system. If the judge's opinion is the only one that matters, what happens to the opinion of the person who was harmed? What if the judge doesn't have an adequate grasp of the key issues that are informing the proceeding? What if the judge fails to understand the nuances of what it is like to move through the world in a body or skin colour different from his own?
First of all, let's be frank. The judge's opinion, even if it is the only one that matters, doesn't form in a vacuum. It is influenced by the judge's station in society. It is influenced by the opinions and stations in society held by the police officers who conduct the investigation and the counsel who argue the case. No human being is without bias, and our biases are shaped by the stereotypes, norms, and power differentials of the society we live in. If a judge, a police officer, or a lawyer does not intimately understand the realities of being a young woman, they are, frankly, not qualified to assess the “objective danger” of the situations young women and girls are facing online.
Second, legal workers often also lack forms of digital literacy—
There's no need to apologize.
I'm not sure what the last part you heard was. The next thing I would say is that legal workers often also lack forms of digital literacy that are crucial to cyberviolence cases. Regardless of which side they took on the verdict in my case, many observers commented on how the judge's decision revealed what was, on his part, a very limited grasp of how the Internet works, and Twitter in particular, which is where the harassment occurred.
Let me be clear that the judge in my case did work very hard to understand how Twitter works by asking many follow-up questions. He was very thorough. However, you don't learn what it's like to use Twitter by asking questions. You learn what it's like to use Twitter by using it.
While on the stand, I explained what it means to put a period in front of someone's username in a tweet. I explained the mechanics of blocking someone on Twitter and what it actually achieves, which is not very much. I explained what the sticky-outtie tongue emoticon means.
But how do you explain to someone who has never used Twitter what it's like to be someone who uses Twitter as your primary means of sharing your voice with the world? How do you explain to that person who never uses Twitter just how much it impacted your life to no longer be able to use it freely, and to feel fear every time you sign in that your harasser is going to be there to greet you? The answer is that you can't, but that person who doesn't use the Internet will have the power to determine the official public narrative of what happened to you on the Internet. That person will compare Twitter, a privately owned corporation, to a public square. That person will characterize your choice to have a public Twitter account as inviting the world into your living room, without acknowledging that you should be able to kick that person out of your living room if they are behaving in a way that scares you.
In other words, that person will essentially conclude that you asked for it, that this kind of treatment is to be expected and tolerated, and that the onus is on potential victims to do everything in their power to prevent others from preying on them.
The adversarial nature of the criminal legal system means that survivors are bombarded with scrutiny of their actions, a scrutiny which in many cases is not equally levied at the accused. In this case, the criminal legal system simply reproduces the victim-blaming and impossible standards of behaviour that our society already imposes on survivors of gender-based violence, and also reproduces the comparative leniency experienced by those who inflict it in broader society.
My fear was characterized by the judge as unreasonable because I at times lashed out angrily about the man who was harassing me. Judges are called upon to apply an objective standard to determine the reasonability of a victim's feelings. “Reasonable”—that's a funny, subjective word, isn't it? It's easy to see the many ways in which societal stereotypes about appropriate victim behaviour and who makes a good or a bad victim might inform these judgments.
The criminal legal system, frankly, fetishizes an objectivity that in many cases does not exist. The reality is that many crimes relating to interpersonal violence, including crimes that fall under the gender-based violence umbrella, such as cyberviolence, involve a significant degree of subjectivity. We're talking about feelings, about interpretations of other people's feelings, about intuition based on non-verbal communication. There is often not a smoking gun, and there's often no objective crow's nest that any participant can sit in to assess the situation.
Even my own judge openly stated in his ruling that his lens on the law is shaped by his lens on society, which is in turn shaped by his social location, in this case as a man. He quoted from another judge's ruling and said, “We may try to see things as objectively as we please. Nonetheless, we can never see them with any eyes except our own”, yet he still found me unreasonable to fear for my safety when I was, by his own admission, being harassed by an unhinged and vulgar man.
In my own case, I often wonder what might have happened if my harasser had been a young black man instead of a middle-aged, middle-class white man with a white-collar job. I wonder how the police might have responded had I not been a middle-class, well-educated white woman. A legal principle at the end of the day is only a principle. How it looks in action and not on paper tends to shift and change depending on the relative power of the parties involved.
I understand why the rights of the accused are theoretically paramount in a criminal case. The stakes are high. We're talking about incarceration. We're talking about a permanent record. These things are a big deal.
I can tell you right now that I didn't go to the police because I wanted my harasser thrown in jail. I didn't go to the police because I wanted his reputation destroyed. I just wanted him to leave me alone.
I had already done everything in my power to achieve that, but with no success. I wanted help. I wanted a third party to intervene and to support me in conveying to him the harm that he was causing to me. I'm a middle-class women, and the narrative I've been peddled since childhood for when I need to be protected and when I need safety was to call the police. Doing that just raised the stakes to a level that I didn't want. It raised the stakes to a level that discourages many men who use violence and intimidation from ever being willing to admit to the harm they caused, because if they admit to the harm that they caused, then they might be incarcerated. It also meant that I gave up my agency to speak openly about what happened to me. This is the first time I've done that. I handed my official narrative to a judge, the only person whose opinion apparently matters, and a man who was not there and did not understand many of the particulars of the case.
What if we had more options for intervention that don't seek consequences like incarceration, but that simply seek an end to, and an acknowledgement of, the harm? I can tell you that I would have called a service like that in a heartbeat. I've talked to many survivors who feel the same.
Restorative and transformative justice processes offer these types of approaches, but these programs are few and far between, they're underfunded, access is extremely limited, and outcomes from these types of proceedings are often not afforded the same societal legitimacy as outcomes from criminal proceedings.
Restorative and transformative practices offer models of justice that research shows are more in step with the type of support that most survivors are seeking when they contact police. These processes are rooted in the practices of indigenous communities and communities of colour. They offer safer alternatives for survivors who don't feel safe contacting police because of the violence, historically and currently, inflicted by police upon their communities, such as black and indigenous people, sex workers, undocumented people, and transgendered people.
Survivors of cyberviolence need support to heal, and those who inflict it need to be reminded of the survivor's humanity and the right to live in peace. I don't believe the criminal legal system is truly capable of either of these things. As a survivor of both cyberviolence and the violence of our criminal court system, I'd like to see state resources diverted away from law enforcement and criminal courts and toward holistic, trauma-informed, survivor-centred processes of healing and accountability.
Hi. Thank you for the invitation to be here today.
For almost 150 years, YWCA Canada has worked to improve the lives of young women and girls through programs, projects, and policy advocacy. As Canada's single largest provider of shelter for women and children fleeing violence, we place a high priority on ending violence against young women and girls. Empowering girls, developing young women's leadership, changing societal attitudes, advocating for violence prevention policies and education, and innovative programs and tools are all strategies in our approach.
To prevent violence against young women and girls, we need a societal shift in attitude similar to shifts in public acceptance of drinking and driving, and smoking in public places. Long-term public awareness campaigns were essential to making those changes and will be essential to preventing violence.
These need to be combined with preventive program initiatives and supportive responses for young women and girls who have experienced violence. Addressing violence against young women and girls requires a commitment to reconciliation and to inclusion, as well as specifically addressing both systemic and individual forms of violence against indigenous young women and girls.
Developing empowered young women and girls requires programs and spaces that foster leadership, empowerment, and self-affirmation. These gendered programs include safer spaces for young women to meaningfully engage in conversations around issues such as violence prevention that are adapted to girls and to young women.
Through our Power of Being a Girl initiative, girls 12 to 17 develop leadership by hosting events for World YWCA's annual Week Without Violence. YWCA GirlSpace provides an opportunity to raise awareness about violence and its root causes through workshops and projects, and our forthcoming Rights Guide for girls, young women, and gender non-conforming youth will empower girls by providing access to information on their rights.
Preventing violence against young women and girls also requires changing the behaviour of men and boys. A major issue on that front is consent to sexual activity. In a consent culture, everyone from judges and defence attorneys to campus sports teams and police officers understands, respects, and applies the law of consent that both people need to say yes to sexual activity; that silence does not mean yes, only yes means yes; and that it is illegal to have sexual contact with someone who has not consented, is unconscious, or is too impaired to give voluntary consent.
Social norms need to be shifted through consent education in public schools and post-secondary campuses as well as through mandatory training, leadership, and enforcement across police and court systems, up to and including removal of judges who fail to apply the law.
Public education strategies are needed to shift the stigma of sexual assault off those who are assaulted and onto the attacker, confirming that it is no more shameful to have been sexually assaulted than it is shameful to have your car stolen or your house robbed. It is shameful and criminal to commit sexual assault.
Girls and young women need safe, supportive homes. Most girls who leave home do so due to sexual abuse and violence. Others are escaping homophobia. First nations, Métis, and Inuit girls and young women may be leaving foster homes and group homes, or aging out of care without supports.
For teenage girls, homelessness carries the risk of violence, sexual exploitation, addiction, and criminalization. Teenage girls who have experienced homelessness stress the need for girls-only housing to provide a home that is free from sexual harassment and violence. Emergency shelters for young women are also key. Across the country, local YWCAs have initiated live-in programs for young mothers and their children, providing housing, support, education referrals, and advocacy as well as continuing outreach supports on transitioning out of programs.
YWCA Canada's award-winning Safety Siren smart phone app is an innovative tool to add to young women's safety. It's a free, downloadable application for iPhones, BlackBerry, and Androids that sends an emergency email to a pre-set contact with appropriate geolocation coordinates and places an emergency outgoing call to a pre-programmed number. It geolocates the user to nearby sexual assault centres, emergency hotlines, health centres, and clinics and offers a wide range of facts and information on women's health and wellness as well as women's health resources.
Finally, YWCA Canada's #NOTokay campaign aims to engage the general public in identifying violence against women in popular culture, social media music videos, television shows, and gaming, and to empower them to step up and say that's not okay.
Hashtag NOTokay aims to foster a society that instead of using violence against women, supports women and young women to fully exercise their rights and their freedoms.
Good afternoon. My name is Raine Liliefeldt. I'm honoured to be here with you on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe people.
I'm here to paint you a picture. Stroke.
I had to go to school every day with another girl calling me a snake. I felt that if I didn't block her and just let her and her friends bully me, it won't be as hard as in real life. Stroke.
When I was going through a case when I was being told to kill myself and slit my throat and things, the schools, my family, and police didn't do anything but shrug their shoulders at me, but my friends tried to help me to stop it from happening.
Young women and girls in Canada experience deliberate violence because of their gender. Information and communication technologies and the spread of social media have presented new opportunities and enabled various efforts to address violence against women and girls. When girls and women are driven off the Internet, they lose the ability to be part of the platforms where more and more public debates take place. This is why the YWCA embarked on an initiative to better understand and support young women.
Project Shift, which creates a safer digital world for young women, is a national multi-year project led by YWCA Canada and funded by Status of Women Canada, and even though I'm talking about girls and young women, our work acknowledges and recognizes that cyberviolence also greatly impacts transgender and gender-nonconforming youth.
Let's zoom in. We use the term “cyberviolence” to mean any harmful act carried out through network technology. We've chosen to use this term because it respects the serious harm that these behaviours can do. This includes many of the behaviours often described as cyberbullying, such as spreading rumours about someone, impersonating them online, spreading intimate or embarrassing images, and targeting them with threats or sexist language, as well as stalking or monitoring them and so on. It may be carried out by peers, friends, strangers, or romantic partners. It's important to recognize that this is often connected to off-line violence. Online harassment can easily move off-line when harassers release their targets' personal information or an abusive relationship plays out online.
Cyberviolence impacts the daily lives of young women and girls. Girls are significantly more likely than boys to feel that the Internet is an unsafe space for them. A lot more girls than boys fear they could be hurt if they talk to someone they don't know online. One third of youth who experience violence online have symptoms of depression. Online harassment or abusive relationships can have effects that lasts for years or a lifetime. As well as the emotional impacts, cyberviolence against women also narrows their horizons by forcing them out of spaces where they don't feel safe or welcome.
Project Shift establishes the need for a gender lens to understand violence online. It makes recommendations for a range of public and private sectors, from educational institutions to parents, counsellors, police, and the information communication technology sector, also known as ICT.
As part of our work, YWCA has convened leaders from over a dozen ICT organizations. The round table, as we call it, hopes to move forward on creating systemic change on the issue of cyberviolence against young women and girls. Guided by YWCA's leadership and the connection to the issue, the members of the round table have agreed to share knowledge and resources within the ICT round table and across the sector with students, interns, employees, and colleagues; to cultivate a culture of empathy across the sector; and to provide leadership to advance the sector on accountability.
Here is how you give can support. To create systemic change and to end cyberviolence against girls and young women, we recommend that the government support women-centred training and education for the legal community and law enforcement and work with those who have experienced cyberviolence in a supportive and non-judgmental way; change the legal definition of abuse and harassment under the Criminal Code, and include cyberviolence to better protect young women and girls; continue funding YWCA Canada's work with the ICT sector to create a safer digital world; and fund the first national cross-sectoral conference on online safety, led by YWCA.
Cyberviolence happens to many women and girls who quit social networks after being harassed. We are failing as a democracy if we allow harassment and other forms of cyberviolence to keep girls and women from being able to exercise their full rights. It is the government's responsibility to ensure that girls and women are safe everywhere, online and off-line. Let's paint a different picture together.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair. It's a real honour for me to be able to be subbing in this committee.
Before getting elected, I spent four years volunteering on the board of a great organization in my riding called the Saffron Centre. It does work on consent education as well as on counselling.
I really appreciate the testimony of the witnesses. I want to probe a little bit, initially at least, this issue of awareness about these issues—public awareness, public attitudes on consent—and maybe what we can do about it.
To start with, to Ms. Decter and Ms. Liliefeldt, we talk about the positive importance of informing people about consent, but there's also the side of countering or trying to stop negative messages that are coming to young people and others from other places about consent.
One of the eye-opening things for me as part of the organization that I previously mentioned was realizing that a lot of the initial awareness about sexuality for a lot of our young boys is coming from violent sexual images that they're consuming on the Internet. It's a real problem that their basic presumptions about the way sexuality works are shaped by these initial images that they don't really have any kind of context for understanding.
You referred to the Internet as being the Wild West. At the same time, there are other countries that I think try to be a little bit more interventionist around some of these issues.
I would like you to first comment on what we as legislators or what civil society can do to counter some of these negative messages. Then I want to ask you about the positive side of consent education after that.
Good afternoon. My name is Signy Arnason. I'm the associate executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection as well as the director of Cybertip.ca.
As Lianna mentioned, we're a national charity dedicated to the personal safety of children. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection provides programs and services to the Canadian public, one of which includes Cybertip.ca, which is Canada's tip line for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children.
During its 14 years of operation, the tip line has processed over 200,000 reports from the public. Over 90% of those pertain to concerns regarding child sexual abuse images and videos, what is otherwise known as child pornography.
Child pornography involves the recording of a child being sexually exploited or abused. The image or video becomes a permanent record of the child's abuse and can propagate indefinitely. In order to produce the image, a child has to be assaulted or posed deliberately in a sexualized way.
We release studies every few years. In January 2016 we released a report that was an overview of reports to the tip line over the last eight years, and we had a particular focus on child sexual abuse images. The report examined close to 44,000 unique images and videos classified by the tip line as child pornography.
This report provides important insight about child sexual abuse and the abusive acts these offenders are perpetrating against children. The harsh reality is that young girls are disproportionately represented in these images, since 80% of the children in the imagery are female. Of that number, 79% of them appear to be prepubescent—under the age of 12—and of that number, about 65% are under the age of 8.
The abuse depicted in the images is severe. Fifty per cent of the images assessed by analysts involve either sexual assaults or extreme sexual assaults. Additionally, there is alarming concern that as the age of the child decreases, analysts are more likely to see sexual assaults being committed against the child. When babies and toddlers are seen in imagery, 60% of the abuse perpetrated against that child involves either a sexual assault or an extreme sexual assault.
There are also a disproportionate number of men who appear in the images depicting child sexual abuse. As assessed by analysts, 83% had a male visible in the image. When only an adult male is visible with the child in the child sexual abuse content, 97% of the content involves either a sexual assault or extreme sexual assault.
Cybertip.ca also receives reports from Canadians on sexualized child modelling. Sexualized child modelling occurs on sites that portray images of children who are fully or partially clothed, have been deliberately posed in a highly sexualized way, and who are not marketing any specific product or service other than the child herself or himself. The tip line started classifying this category of websites and images in 2006. While the current definition of child pornography in Canada is broad enough to capture the most egregious of sexualized child modelling pictures under the Criminal Code definition, the majority would fall outside of it.
In the last three years, the tip line has analyzed close to 50,000 sexualized child modelling images. In the past year, analysts assessed 20,000 such images, with 92% of them involving girls. The majority of children in these images are prepubescent—76% of them—and they are deliberately posed in a sexual manner 40% of the time. Thong underwear, high heels, and knee-high stockings are some of the most popular garments observed on the children in these images. Ten per cent of the time, sexualized child modelling images are found on adult pornography sites, which sends the message that children, particularly girls, are sexual commodities. These sites negatively impact societal beliefs and attitudes towards children by showcasing them as sexual objects and normalizing a sexual interest in children.
In addition, as identified through various tip lines around the world that do work similar to what Cybertip.ca does, there have been numerous cases in which children identified in child sexual abuse imagery first appeared in sexualized child modelling images. These images arguably assist in fuelling the demand for illegal images among adults who have a sexual interest in children. In short, the hypersexualization of young girls in the form of sexualized child modelling poses a serious risk to children's personal safety and security.
When it comes to cyberviolence, we know that women and girls are particularly vulnerable. In some cases, the violence comes at the hands of an adult, and in other cases it comes at the hands of peers. When cyberviolence is perpetrated by adults, it often manifests itself online as luring or sextortion.
Cybertip.ca has seen a worrying rise in teenagers reporting cases of sextortion surrounding live streaming with adults posing as teenagers. Within platforms that allow users to communicate by video, offenders often secretly record teenagers. They typically deceive the children about their identity and then manipulate them into sharing further sexual images or videos.
The tip line is now receiving at least 15 reports a month dealing with online extortion, where the youth either has paid money to have the threats stop or has been asked to produce more sexual images to send to the offender and in some capacity has complied. While that number may not seem significant, we know it's the tip of the iceberg. The majority of these reports, 70%, involve girls.
When cyberviolence is perpetrated by peers, it often takes the form of sexting and cyberbullying. Developmentally, youth seek independence, place peer relationships over parents, exhibit attention-seeking behaviour, and crave acceptance, all of which are normal developmental milestones. They are also willing to take on more risk in exploring their sexuality, without realizing the long-term consequences of their behaviour.
When these typical adolescent attributes are combined with the ever-present availability of technology and the permanent nature of digital images, it is easy to see that there is a perfect storm for sexual harm, especially for teen girls.
Girls also face the additional layer of harm that comes from shaming when sexual images and videos circulate among peers. There still exists the social stigma that women and girls are somehow acting inappropriately if they go against traditional expectations tied to sexual behaviour. We need to challenge attitudes and beliefs that relate to victim blaming and degrading sexual labels if we are to change the damage being done to youth—something that the tip line intersects with on a daily basis.
In closing, our organization witnesses, day in and day out, the prevalence of violence and abuse being perpetrated against children, particularly girls. Cybertip.ca currently receives an average of 3,300 reports per month, and we only see that number rising in the future. The evolving advantage of technology, combined with the shield of anonymity, has resulted in the offending community having an enormous advantage in exploiting the innocence and vulnerability of children, and our statistics reflect that reality.
My colleague will speak to our recommendations for action at the end of her speech.
I thank the committee members for their time and attention.
Just to follow up on Signy's comments, I have a couple of things that I did not mention, just so everybody is clear.
Our organization is independent of government and police. We are a charitable organization, a non-partisan organization. We work very closely not only with a variety of stakeholders but also with provincial governments in navigating some unique options when we're looking at regulations or other remedies that we can move forward on in terms of the protection of our children.
Again, as mentioned, I am the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and I was really asked to come here today to talk a little bit about industry.
I understand that Leah Parsons and Carol Todd were both here. Our organization worked very closely following the deaths of their children and with numerous other families. We work, so you're clear, day in and day out. It's very different from some of the academics. While everything we present will be evidence-based, and we provide the statistics, as Signy has alluded to, our organization really works in the trenches. We work first-hand with families. We work first-hand with youth who are contacting us because they have been negatively impacted by a sexual violence situation.
I'm going to spend a few minutes talking about the way in which our organization collaborates with industry and addressing what we all know is their shared responsibility in addressing the online sexual exploitation of children. Then I'm going to move on to a couple of other areas that I think are very relevant to the conversation you are all having.
We certainly believe that protecting children from online sexual exploitation and bringing those who victimize children to justice require the collaborative approach that I've just mentioned. It is not enough to say this is just a police problem; we're not going to arrest our way out of it. This isn't just an industry responsibility, and it isn't us putting all the onus on parents, who then have to take full responsibility when they didn't sign up to figure out, as every age milestone is hit, how they can keep their kids safe. It is certainly something that not only Canada but all nations are significantly wrestling with.
What has happened? A number of years ago we set up the Canadian Coalition Against Internet Child Exploitation. We abbreviate that as CCAICE. Basically it is a voluntary group of private and public sector entities that work to look at ways that we can take on the war of child pornography and child sexual exploitation. We established this organization back in 2004. Its mandate is to examine and provide tangible solutions to reducing online sexual exploitation of children. Again I have to underscore that this really fits into this dilemma we have when we look at public safety versus competing priorities on privacy. This is a voluntary group coming together to work together. We come together one to two times a year.
Essentially the catalyst of this coalition coming together was the abduction and subsequent murder, which many of you will remember, of a 10-year-old girl named Holly Jones in Toronto. That time was sort of the genesis of the Internet; everything was exploding. Mr. Briere was the man who took her. She was basically a victim of opportunity. What he did talk about and admit in the court process was that he had been viewing child pornography, and basically she was essentially a victim of opportunity. That resulted in industry stepping up and understanding—even though we look at the telcos as the pipes and the content providers—that they needed to be at the table.
Over the past 12 years that we have been operating the coalition, we have had some significant results, and it is very important that you hear and have the opportunity to digest some of those successes, because Canada certainly has been doing some innovative work in leading the way. At the same time, we're not patting ourselves on the back and saying more does not need to be done. We recognize that.
One of our biggest achievements was Cleanfeed Canada, back in 2006. It is an initiative that aims to reduce Canadians' exposure to what we call child pornography or child abuse images, and it creates a disincentive for those who access and distribute such images by preventing Canadian customers from viewing non-Canadian websites that are hosting child abuse images. To date we have had nearly 30,000 total URLs added to Cleanfeed. Participating Internet service providers prevent customers from accessing an average 600 websites at any given moment in connection with the Cleanfeed list, a list that we maintain. We verify that the images within that list are typically prepubescent children, and day in and day out we stop Canadians from gaining access to that content.
What we know is that 80% of the content features young girls, so again this is an important tool in addressing this unique problem.
Cleanfeed is one of the most important examples of CCAICE looking at worldwide solutions. We are, and always will be, working with other governments looking at innovative solutions. We know we're not going to arrest our way out of it and we know this is a serious problem. For this committee, in looking at the concept of gender-based violence, we really have to look at the continuum. It starts with very young girls and goes all the way up the line. The Internet has really, as Signy said, created this perfect storm.
We also worked with police to create what we're calling the LER, the law enforcement request letter. The LER was used at a pre-warrant stage in relation to police obtaining Internet subscriber and address information. As mentioned, anonymity creates a very serious problem when police can see a very disturbing activity going on but do not have enough information to get a warrant. This whole process was successful up to and until the Spencer decision, which many of you may be aware of.
We have been working very long and hard. The coalition meets regularly, and I hope you're aware of the introduction in 2011 of the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service. Providers are required to notify law enforcement and, in some specific incidences, our agency if they're notified of an incident concerning Internet child pornography. Law enforcement in Canada receive the bulk of this information today.
Also, what we will say for sure is that industry has been very open. We were listening to the previous presenters in terms of what can the telcos do. They are very engaged. To date we've carried out 15 national campaigns with many of the providers in terms of public education about reporting and the importance of reporting. We are working with some of those companies in connection with people signing up for new technology, such as a new phone, and knowing what the developmental milestones are. We have to look at it from a relevant age perspective in terms of educating them and arming their parents, which is an ongoing challenge.
These are some of the things right now that industry is doing. We recognize it is a moving dialogue with the various electronic service providers and Internet service providers that make up some of the content about what their role may be in this complicated space.
There are a couple of things I wanted to raise to the committee that tie directly into what you're looking at. In May 2016 our organization released preliminary findings on a report we have on our site, and all of you can grab it. We have an executive summary as well as a very comprehensive piece on Abducted Then Murdered Children: A Canadian Study. Basically, we wanted to look historically at all cases of Canadian children under the age of 16. This is quite distinct from the murdered and missing aboriginal indigenous women and children issue.
We looked at all Canadian children from when CPIC began to gain insight into the children who were being abducted and the histories of the offenders and to identify intervention and prevention strategies. These findings are available on our site, and I welcome you to all take a look at them.
There are two last things I want to mention. One is that we are right now conducting the first international survey of the first generation of victims of child pornography since the onset of the Internet. Many of these victims are now 22 and upwards. We are meeting with an international working group here in Ottawa next week and we'll be looking at that.
Finally, I want to close with five specific recommendations.
The first is that we encourage the committee to continue to support our organization, which the Government of Canada has done, in our efforts to identify and rescue more victims found in child abuse material and to increase public awareness of this problem.
Second, we would like the support for our agency in becoming that unique resource centre assisting victims whose child sexual abuse has been recorded and currently is being distributed on the Internet.
Third, and perhaps more importantly, we would like you to consider legislation that targets communications and recordings that advocate harm to children. We are talking beyond child pornography, because that is covered. We mean the depictions of violent sexual abuse by adults, the sexual commodification of children, the marketing of children as sexual objects, and communications within those pedophile networks that normalize the distorted sexual views of children and guide members on how to create pretenses to gain access to them.
Fourth, we ask you to support efforts related to gender-specific education. With the overrepresentation of girls in imagery, we would like supplementary educational material that helps children understand what is not normal, what to do about child sexual abuse, and what action to take.
Finally, the issue of cyberviolence against girls should be considered as a precursor to cyberviolence against women. For example, the way in which it is experienced, the impact of victimization, and the available tactics and remedies that may be available could be much broader for girls, given their status as children. In addition, the protected status of children, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography must be part of the consideration and evaluation.
In closing, we thank you very much for the opportunity to throw all this at you, and we welcome any questions you may have.
I know you can't. This is probably the million-dollar problem.
The biggest issue we face as an organization is the challenges with the various provincial educational systems. As you would all know, where there isn't any jurisdiction federally, the biggest problem is getting consistency in the educational programming and making sure that it's being used. We work with all the provinces and territories in doing that. It is a very significant challenge. What a family in Quebec may expect is going to be very different from what a family in British Columbia expects, depending on the lay of the land. That is very significant.
We have no issue getting people at the table. We have no issue in terms of getting people to step up and want to get behind the work we're doing. The challenge at the end is really how we are touching every Canadian in a way that's meaningful for them, in a way that's valuable, and in a way that's making a difference in how they're able to parent and how they're able to protect their children.
We are always looking at legislative changes. We have a federal action plan that we tabled last year and we're happy to send it to anyone. It's on our website and it asks for concrete legislative steps.
The biggest thing is at the end of the day is that the most important people around a child have the opportunity to protect that child, to disrupt or uncover anything that's getting in their way to either hurt them or take away some avenue of protection. How do we do that public awareness? In a way, as I mentioned, having that touch point is probably the most significant thing. At the end of the day, though, we do believe educators in schools, who are with kids every single day, have a very significant role, and we haven't completely figured that one out in terms of how we make sure every child in Canada is getting that type of education.
We manage very well. Our slogan is “You get more than you paid for.” We are happy. Our mission drives what we do. We receive funding from the federal government, for which we are very grateful. We have asked for increased funding, but we also have to be wise. You can't just pour endless amounts into this effort. We have to be very smart.
One of the things we are really pleased with is that our relationship with the policing community is very strong. All school resource officers—back to your point—use NeedHelpNow because they are getting the calls. They are funnelling all that material out.
We are giving out, free, millions and millions of pieces every year to educators, which is huge. We are trying to figure out how to manage this, knowing that there is never going to be enough. We need to work smart and hard, not necessarily in that order.
Right now we are looking at some of the solutions I talked about. We have been doing this a long time. We have recently taken stock, and we are starting to look at the rates of return, in terms of where we need to be putting those resources. Yes, we have requested some increased funding, but we also recognize that it can't be endless. We have to figure this out. We are working on that.