I call this meeting to order.
This is the 29th meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
I'd like to remind members and the public that today's meeting is televised and will be made available via the House of Commons website.
Pursuant to the motion adopted by the committee on Friday, December 11, 2020, the committee is resuming its study on the protection of privacy and reputation on platforms such as Pornhub.
We have with us today the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Bill Blair; the Minister of Justice, the Honourable David Lametti; and the Commissioner of the RCMP, Brenda Lucki. Since we are starting a little late today, I will ask the ministers to introduce the officials who are joining them.
Before we get started, I will ask for the committee's indulgence for just one second. When we last met, we did have a discussion and there was a growing consensus amongst committee members to hear from the law clerk. We have set aside the third hour of this meeting to hear from the law clerk, so he can provide us with information that would be helpful when making decisions with regard to the issues that were being discussed at our last meeting. The law clerk is prepared to answer those questions at one o'clock today. I just wanted to make members aware of that. We will turn to that after the first two hours of this meeting.
Ministers, we will now hear from you.
Minister Blair, I believe you will be going first.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and good morning to members of this committee.
I'd like to begin by thanking all of you for the invitation to join you this morning for this very important and very timely study on a very significant issue.
As I think as everyone recognizes, the sexual abuse and exploitation of a child—any child—in any context, in any platform and in any place is intolerable and unacceptable. It is the most heinous of crimes and deserves society's strongest condemnation and our effective response.
Recording the sexual abuse of a child can have significant lifelong impacts on both the victims and the survivors of this crime. Sadly, as some of these victims grow older, many come to realize that their images continue to be circulated on the Internet, and they are revictimized over and over again as this material is shared.
I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize the remarkable courage and resilience of survivors in coming forward and speaking out. I've had an opportunity to meet with [Technical difficulty—Editor], and I think I share this committee's appall at reports that abhorrent material of this kind has been found on platforms. It is unacceptable that the victims have encountered difficulties in getting companies to remove this illegal content.
Their stories and experiences remind all of us of the important work that we must do and are doing to protect children and youth. The Government of Canada plays a leading role in these efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation and, Mr. Chair, we are taking action to increase awareness and to reduce the stigma of reporting. This is important, because we know that the number of reported cases is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true scale of this most heinous of crimes.
Internet companies must also do more to protect children, and we are taking steps to hold them to account for their role in this. We are also taking action to bring more perpetrators to justice by supporting efforts to detect, investigate and prosecute these cases. I have asked the RCMP commissioner to continue to work with her provincial and territorial counterparts to address this crime and to ensure that prosecutions are done when deemed appropriate by evidence and by law enforcement.
Canada's national strategy on this issue is led by Public Safety Canada, which works in partnership with the RCMP, the Department of Justice and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection or, as it's very often known, C3P. We are backing this national strategy with ongoing annual funding of more than $18 million. That includes support for Cybertip.ca, a national tip line operated by C3P. It also includes $5.8 million in ongoing funding announced in 2018 to increase the investigative capacity of the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Crime Centre.
On top of this, in budget 2019, we invested $22.2 million over three years in additional funding to better protect children from this horrendous crime. Of that amount, $15 million is specifically aimed at enhancing the capacity of Internet child exploitation units in municipal and provincial police services right across Canada. These specialized units are dedicated to investigating cases of online child sexual exploitation. Investments in budget 2019 are also helping to increase public awareness of this crime, reduce the stigma associated with reporting and work with the digital industry to find new ways to combat sexual exploitation of children online.
At the same time, it's important to acknowledge the complexities and jurisdictional challenges involved in what is often a borderless crime. Perpetrators and victims can be located anywhere in the world, and images of child sexual abuse and exploitation can be shared on platforms that may be headquartered in one country but legally registered in another, with servers in yet a third and different country.
This affects the authority and challenges the ability of Canadian law enforcement agencies to investigate, and the application of Canadian laws, but I am confident that law enforcement continues to do everything possible to investigate these horrendous crimes and prosecute those responsible. International co-operation is key in this regard. I want to assure you that the RCMP and the Department of Justice work very closely with international partners on investigations and prosecutions.
We also work closely with our international allies and partners to find solutions to better protect children and youth. Last year, for example, Canada and its Five Eyes partners launched the “Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse”. These principles are a guide for industry on how to counter this scourge on their platforms.
We recognize also that there is much more work to do, and that's why we will introduce legislation to create a new regulator that will ensure online platforms remove harmful content, including depictions of child sexual exploitation and intimate images that are shared without consent. Public Safety Canada and other departments are working on this proposed legislation with Canadian Heritage, which leads this effort.
We will continue to do everything we can to protect Canadian children and support Canadian survivors of this terrible crime, and we will continue to work with domestic and international partners to investigate cases in which evidence exists and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm accompanied today by François Daigle, the associate deputy minister of the Department of Justice. Thank you for the invitation to appear before you today.
I'd like to make some general comments on some of the issues raised during previous meetings of the committee's study.
I'd like to emphasize that the government is committed to keeping our children safe, including online, as Minister Blair just said. Canada's criminal legislation in this area are among the most comprehensive in the world.
The Criminal Code prohibits all forms of making, distributing, transmitting, making available, accessing, selling, advertising, exporting and possessing child pornography, which the Criminal Code broadly defines as material involving the depiction of sexual exploitation of persons under the age of 18 years.
The Criminal Code also prohibits luring—that is, communicating with a young person, using a computer, including online, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that young person. It prohibits agreeing to or making arrangements with another person to commit a sexual offence against a child, and it prohibits providing sexually explicit material to a young person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that young person.
Furthermore, the Criminal Code also prohibits voyeurism and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, which are particularly germane to both the online world and the discussion we are having today.
Offences of a general application may also apply to criminal conduct that takes place online or that is facilitated by the use of the Internet. For example, criminal harassment and human trafficking offences may apply, depending upon the facts of the case.
Courts are also authorized to order the removal of child sexual exploitation material and other criminal content, such as intimate images, voyeuristic material or hate propaganda, where it is being made available to the public from a server in Canada.
In addition to the Criminal Code, as Minister of Justice, I'm responsible for the Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide and Internet service. This act doesn't have a short title, but law practitioners refer to it as the mandatory reporting act.
In English, it's the , or MRA.
Under the mandatory reporting act, Internet service providers in Canada have two main obligations. The first is to contact the Canadian Centre for Child Protection when they receive child pornography complaints from their subscribers. This centre is the non-governmental agency that operates Cybertip.ca, the national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children.
The second obligation of Internet service providers is to inform the provincial or territorial police when there are reasonable grounds to believe that its Internet services have been used to commit a child pornography offence.
While Canada's laws are comprehensive, it is my understanding that there has been some concern as to how they are being interpreted and implemented, especially in relation to the troubling media reports about MindGeek and its Pornhub site.
Since I am the Minister of Justice, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on ongoing or potential investigations or prosecutions, but I would also note that the responsibility for the administration of criminal justice, including the investigation and prosecution of such crimes, including the sexual exploitation offences, falls largely on my provincial colleagues and counterparts.
However, as the stated during question period on February 3:
...cracking down on illegal online content is something we are taking very, very seriously. Whether it is hate speech, terrorism, child exploitation or any other illegal acts....
In fact, the government takes these measures so seriously that the has given four ministers the mandate to address different aspects of online harms. Minister Blair and I are two of these ministers. As he has mentioned, the is one of the lead [Technical difficulty—Editor] as well.
While the Internet has provided many benefits to Canada and the world, it has also provided criminals with a medium that extends their reach—and thus, their victim base—and a medium that elevates the level of complexity of investigations. One complicating factor is that telecommunications networks and services transcend international borders, while the enforcement authority of police, such as the RCMP, is generally limited to their domestic jurisdiction.
Further, under international law, court orders are generally enforceable only within the jurisdiction of a state. With limited exceptions, their enforcement requires the consent of the other state in which they are sought to be enforced.
Canada is obviously not the only country facing these challenges, which is why we continue to work with our international partners to facilitate international co-operation in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes, notably to strengthen bilateral co-operation and negotiation of new international mutual legal assistance treaties in criminal matters in order to address these issues.
Although mutual legal assistance treaties are a universally accepted method of requesting and obtaining international assistance in criminal matters, even in emergency situations, they weren't designed for the Internet age, where digital evidence is a common component of most criminal investigations and where timeliness is essential to the collection of this evidence because of its volatility.
Canada is actively working with its international partners to address these issues. For example, we are currently participating in the negotiation of a second protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime to enhance international co-operation on cross-border access to data.
Ministers, thank you for being here.
Minister Blair, 70 MPs across parties have written to you about the cases of child exploitation, child sexual assault material, and instances of human trafficking and rape on MindGeek sites. Early in November and again in December, you assured us of the robust framework on prohibitions in the Criminal Code, which certainly Minister Lametti has just outlined in depth as well.
[Technical difficulty—Editor] December, and you sort of alluded to this. You said you reached out to the RCMP to offer support in response to these abhorrent revelations about MindGeek, Pornhub and other sites. Can you tell committee members what exactly and specifically that looked like, what support you offered?
Sure, but a yes or no, of course, doesn't compromise anything. It would just confirm for Canadians that elected officials and law enforcement have taken action on this very heinous crime, as you've outlined.
In your opening comments, you mentioned funding in the 2018 and 2019 budgets, as well as anticipated legislation for a regulator. I guess what I'm [Technical difficulty—Editor] that, by your own words and also in the words of a variety of experts.... For example, the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting told this committee they had released a report. It is a comprehensive legal analysis showing that under long-standing Canadian common law, these platforms are already liable for the user-generated content they promote and for circulating illegal user-generated content.
Also, as a representative of the Department of Justice said, “The definition of child pornography in the Criminal Code is among the world's broadest. It's not only images that we protect against or criminalize the distribution of, but it is also audio pornography and two forms of written pornography.” He continued, “The problem often is the application of the law, and how that works when the rubber hits the road.”
On behalf of all Canadians, and most importantly on behalf of victims who are heinously exploited and continue to be victimized in Canada right now, and as a call for justice, accountability and consequences on behalf of all of those innocent Canadians, what exactly are you going to do as the minister responsible for public safety to ensure that Canada's laws are actually enforced?
Good morning, everyone, and happy Monday.
The ethics committee has been undertaking this study for a number of weeks, and we've heard some quite shocking testimony. I can say frankly, probably for the majority of us, that it turned our stomachs in a very bad manner. There were a couple of days when I went home thinking about the testimony I had heard about child exploitation, something we want no child to be put through, whether it is here in Canada or globally. I wish to thank all my colleagues for their work on this, and I thank the ministers here.
I'll first go to Minister Blair and Minister Lametti. I'd like to hear an answer from both of you with regard to the work being done by of Canadian Heritage on a new regulator to address online hate, the sharing of non-consensual images, child pornography and the incitement of violence and terrorism.
Currently within our [Technical difficulty—Editor] National Child Exploitation Crime Centre, which is largely responsible for all incoming and outgoing online-based child sexual exploitation reported offences within Canada. How is this new regulator going to work with the existing NCECC?
If you could keep your answers succinct, that would be great, because I do have follow-up questions.
I'm happy to begin here.
Thank you, Mr. Sorbara, for your question. I certainly agree with all the sentiments you raised in your opening remarks and certainly with what Minister Blair has said.
My role in all of this as Minister of Justice is to ensure that Canada's criminal laws and other laws cover the domestic situation, and also to work with a number of different ministers, ministries and international partners to make sure things work, as a matter of international co-operation, and to make sure there aren't any legislative gaps in terms of Criminal Code protections or otherwise.
Without revealing the contents of what might be in a draft bill—you all know that I can't do that—I will say that the kinds of things that have been suggested involve making Internet service providers more responsible in terms of mandatory reporting. Are there ways in which the mandatory reporting act could be made more robust? Are there ways in which information could be protected in a more robust manner, for example, to help law enforcement agencies and prosecutors build and maintain evidentiary cases?
All of those things are the kinds of things that would fall under that category. Those are the kinds of things that have been raised in the public domain, so I won't go into any details about what might be in a proposed bill.
I wish to thank you as ministers and thank the Treasury Board Secretariat under . In the 2021 main estimates, there was a substantial increase in funding, $6.3 million, for the national strategy to combat human trafficking, $4.4 million for the national cybersecurity strategy and $4.2 million for protecting children from sexual exploitation online. Budget 2019, I would say, announced funding of $4.4 million in 2019-20 and $8.7 million in 2021. It's great to see that.
I wish to pivot in a certain way. I've learned a lot in this study about platforms, and a lot of legalese language and information. I do agree that we have a robust system in place. I think it's section 162, in that realm, in those numbers, for child exploitation, but I do wish to flag something because I think it's important this morning.
I was able to read some papers, and we've received a lot of literature. A lot of briefs have been sent to us, more so than for almost any other study I've seen. One is from the Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity. It is called “Impacts of criminalization and punitive regulation of online sex work and pornography: the need for sex workers' voices”. Another one was an article written by a gentleman by the name of Justin Ling in Maclean's, “Governments have failed Canada's sex workers—and they're running out of patience”.
It all goes back to Bill , which was brought in by the Conservatives. Our role as legislators and also in the Bedford case, which I've been reading up on, is to protect all Canadians, protect children from being exploited and allow Canadians to work safely in any sort of environment.
I've looked at other countries—New Zealand and Germany—and it seems to me that we need to make sure we don't drive work underground. Sex workers' voices need to be listened to, and we need to ensure that we are not harming Canadians rather than helping Canadians.
I wish to put to you a broad type of question, Minister Lametti, in terms of how sex work is regulated in Canada.
Good morning. Thank you for being with us and for your answers. It's rather clear and encouraging.
I'm going to come at this from a different angle. I want you to know that as a mother, I feel indignant, as do all the people in my riding, about what we're experiencing. We're caught in a situation [Technical difficulty—Editor] to change the laws or ensure they're properly enforced. So here's my question.
Given all the legislation we have and the increased amount of money we're investing to support victims and prevent them from being doubly victimized, how is it that some provinces are able to act even more quickly than we are to protect personal information? I'm thinking of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which we're still thinking about.
Privacy is a very broad issue, and that includes the dignity and the situations we are in right now. Three provinces, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, offered assistance. I know that our legislative system doesn't allow us to amend an act with a snap of our fingers, but in the digital age, how is it that we can't adapt the Broadcasting Act to today's realities?
Why aren't we working on the Privacy Act to achieve our objectives?
Although all international co-operation efforts seem to be in place, I'd like to hear what the honourable minister and his colleagues have to say about this.
Thank you for your question, Ms. Gaudreau.
Of course, there are a lot of aspects, legislation, ministers, departments and issues. Federally, there are two privacy acts: the Privacy Act, which affects federal institutions and is therefore under my jurisdiction, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which comes under the Minister of Innovation. As you noted, the House is currently considering a bill to modernize the PIPEDA.
Personally, I am investigating. I have been asked to provide my opinion and comment on the Privacy Act. Basically, the challenge is that technology is changing very quickly, and it's changing internationally. So we work with other countries. Obviously, the provinces also have a say through their own legislation. So we must constantly modernize the act, which creates challenges in its enforcement, as you've just seen in your study.
Thank you, Mr. Blair, Madam Lucki and Minister Lametti, for coming.
Feras Antoon, the CEO of MindGeek, lives in Montreal. In fact, he's building his dream home there, apparently quite the mansion, in a neighbourhood called Mafiaville. Now, I've been in Montreal a lot, although I don't know where Mafiaville is, but I mention it because he lives in Montreal, as does his partner, David Tassillo. They have a thousand employees in Montreal, and their office is at 7777 boulevard Décarie.
Mr. Lametti, in your opinion, would this qualify MindGeek as a Canadian company subject to Canadian law?
Thank you very much, Madam Lattanzio.
It's a very important question. We understand that public education for children and their parents and an awareness of the issue of child sexual exploitation on the Internet is absolutely critical in giving families and young people the tools they need. We are also working hard to remove the stigma, because we know that many people have been deeply traumatized by this most heinous of crimes and we want to empower people to be able to come forward and take actions to protect themselves.
At the same time, we also recognize the importance of strong support for criminal investigations. I want to acknowledge that the RCMP runs the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre, but we work very closely with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, which undertakes, on our behalf and with our funding, support for victim identification and victim support strategies to provide assistance to survivors and tailored resources for victims and their families.
We know that this victimization in this most terrible way by this online sexual exploitation of children can have lifelong consequences. It's critically important that we raise public awareness of the issue so that.... We know that during the pandemic a lot of kids are spending a lot more time online, and we want to make sure they can do it safely. That can be done through public education and working with their families. At the same time, we also recognize that predators are out there, and we need to make sure that we have the tools and the resources necessary to apprehend, deter and prosecute those individuals.
Thank you for your question, Ms. Gaudreau.
With respect to investments, we do what we can because the government has the authority to do so.
As far as bills are concerned, we're always willing to improve the current normative framework, whether it is in criminal law or in other areas. I don't have any bills to propose because, as I just said, the Criminal Code and the other laws are robust. That said, we're always open to suggestions for improvement.
I know that members have bills, but it takes the co-operation of members in the House of Commons. I know your leader has shown such co-operation in the context of the medical assistance in dying bill. Sometimes you have to co-operate, especially when there are sometimes delay tactics by other parties.
We're always willing to co-operate.
Thank you, Mr. Lametti, for coming today.
I'm going to move beyond our attempts to get answers on the mandatory reporting laws that we have in place.
The story of Serena Fleites blew up, and I think it shocked us all. She was a child porn survivor who came forward to The New York Times. She begged Pornhub/MindGeek to take her videos down, and she said there were multiple tags. When we asked Pornhub/MindGeek about this, they said they don't have any records of her. A number of other child survivors have come forward as well.
We have had zero investigations and zero reporting of any of these allegations that have come forward against MindGeek. I know some are not sure whether it's a Canadian company, but it is in Montreal.
Under subsection 163.1(3) of the Criminal Code, any person who “transmits”, “makes available” or “advertises” child pornography is guilty of an indictable offence, with imprisonment of up to 14 years.
I'm thinking here of the tags, the promotions and the selling—the online stuff. Do we not already have laws in Canada that are sufficient? We just don't seem to have the political will to actually apply the law. Why would we need to change anything when the law is pretty clear about transmitting, distributing and advertising child rape?
I'd like to thank the witnesses for being with us.
As I'm sure you've noticed, this is a very thorny issue that deeply affects all members of Parliament who have participated in these meetings. Before I put my question to the two ministers, I'd like to raise a few points.
Mr. Lametti, you said that we have a very powerful law, but that a few things need to be strengthened to better reflect the international nature of cybercrime, if I can use that term, because the actions of MindGeek and Pornhub are indeed criminal. The problem is the location of their computer servers.
I can also note that despite the fact that a willingness to act seems to transcend partisanship, the official opposition voted against increased funding for the RCMP to combat the scourge of online child pornography. That said, I know that the members here are acting in good faith and that they want to do the right thing now.
Mr. Lametti and Mr. Blair, what do you need, both in terms of resources and improvements to the legislative framework, to address these crimes in a way that takes into account their international nature due to the nature of the Internet?
What other tools and funding are needed to properly prosecute these people and bring justice to the victims of these crimes?
Thank you very much, Mr. Fergus, for what is a very important question.
As you've already indicated, we do supply funding to the RCMP to run the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre, which has a number of significant responsibilities, including the investigation of these predators to gather the evidence to bring them to court and to prosecute them. It also has the purpose of identifying and rescuing victims on the international front.
Because of the nature of online harms generally, and certainly of this most terrible crime, there is a very significant international component. That's why, in the five-country ministerial meetings that I have attended for each the last three years, the focus in each of those meetings has been on online child sexual [Technical difficulty—Editor] and implementation of principles to guide industry efforts to combat online crimes and child sexual exploitation.
In addition, we are part of an initiative called the WePROTECT Global Alliance, which is a movement dedicated to national and global action to end sexual exploitation of children online. It includes like-minded states, NGOs and civil society organizations.
Finally, Mr. Fergus, I would point out that the RCMP actually chairs a group called the Virtual Global Taskforce on child exploitation. This is an international law enforcement alliance that is engaged in intelligence sharing, data sharing and dealing with this issue globally. I think it is a demonstration of both Canada's commitment and the RCMP's global leadership on this critically important issue.
Thank you so much for that question.
COVID-19 especially has had a heightened risk to children, as offenders have taken advantage of the fact that children are spending more time online and are often unsupervised. Since the onset of the pandemic, the centre has seen increased online activity related to online child sexual exploitation. From March to May 2020, the centre has recorded an approximately 36% increase in reports of suspected online child exploitation, attributed in part to the increase in viral media and a tangible increase in self-exploitation cases.
We also anticipate more reporting of child exploitation offences, both online and off-line, when the pandemic-related restrictions are slowly lifted and the children have access to trusted adults once again—their teachers, caregivers and community support services. It was largely limited at the onset of the pandemic, likely preventing children from reporting abuse to trusted adults outside of their homes, which is such a crucial part.
In terms of your question with regard to Minister Blair reaching out to the RCMP, whenever a huge...for example, when this arose about the increase in child exploitation, we're always having a conversation about the things we can do to prevent them. Obviously, we're looking at legislation and we're looking at the . We spoke about resources. We spoke about technology. We've talked about things within the acts and how that could improve law enforcement and how we could better reach out to law enforcement.
Thank you for your question.
It's a great question. Obviously, we look at multiple things. First of all, we look at legislation. We have the , as spoke about. We have to look at compliance within that act, and it has to be more inclusive of all the service providers. It would be very helpful, of course, to have basic subscriber information for that, because that would lead to quicker responses and more fulsome responses. Increased resources never hurts. I would never turn down increased resources.
We also have to look at technology. For instance, I think earlier you spoke of the Arachnid project. That's using technology. That's for children, but we should be using similar technology for adults as well, something that can scour the Internet and take multiple images down. Even if we hit one service provider, like a Facebook or a Twitter or a Pornhub, that image gets downloaded to other platforms. It grows exponentially. The only way to get rid of all that is to have technology scan and scour.
Obviously, we need mandatory reporting of online harm. We need those steps, like the minister spoke about, to preserve that evidence and have that content removed in a timely manner as per what the minister said. All of those are very important.
We always need to be speaking with our international partners. It's interesting that you say that, because when I talk with the Five Eyes partners, obviously we're talking about national security, so we talk about terrorism, but we talk a lot about child exploitation. It's a growing industry. One statistic that shocks me is that since Project Arachnid, which scours the net and takes down images, or requests for images to be taken down, as of April 1 of this year it has sent over 6.9 million requests to [Technical difficulty—Editor] platforms for removal. That number is incredibly huge.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to the commissioner, Ms. Lucki, for joining us today.
I have listened with real interest to all the testimony we've had today. Again, it's important to note that this study has generated a lot of public interest, which has been very helpful in our efforts to combat child exploitation on the Internet.
I would like to thank all my colleagues who are here today.
In particular, let me thank Mr. Dong and Mr. for introducing the motion to the committee in the first place.
That being said, we have to put our money were our mouth is. That's what all colleagues here are very concerned about. I heard the ministers and Commissioner Lucki refer to the challenges in enforcement and the resources that they require. We can understand that, with technology evolving as it does on a constant basis, the challenge today to identify and investigate child pornography online is tremendous.
More than $35 million of funding was recommended by the government in the supplementary estimates and in the mains, and it was voted down by the official opposition. They voted against this additional support for federal policing. What's even more shocking to me is that when other specific allocations were made in the 2021 main estimates, including $6.3 million for the national strategy to combat human trafficking, $4.4 million for the national cybersecurity strategy and $4.2 million for protecting children from sexual exploitation online—exactly what we're talking about here—the Conservatives, the official opposition, voted against them.
Just by the by, as we're talking about the importance of the RCMP and federal policing in this work, at the NDP convention on the weekend there was a motion wanting to defund the RCMP altogether.
I think colleagues can agree—
Although law enforcement is facing a ton of challenges in addressing this crime, we have made some significant progress. In 2019, for example, there were over 100,000 reports that were received, and 362 Canadian victims were identified and uploaded to the Interpol's child sexual exploitation database. That was an increase of 32% from the previous year.
We also have developed and implemented a new and efficient file management system. All of this is with the funding that we got in budget 2018 and 2019-20. It's specific to online child sexual exploitation investigations to increase the effectiveness of analysis capabilities because they are so important.
Like you mentioned, we led a global study related to health and wellness as a part of the partnership with the Virtual Global Taskforce. I can't understate the negative effect of viewing these images day in and day out for anybody who is in this line of work. That study was so important.
Also, there's an international police alliance dedicated to the protection of children. That's what happens with the chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce. With the intel sharing and the data sharing, there's a lot of outreach and education.
We also we work with our national and international partners to help ensure that all citizens are as informed as possible, because it's about that reporting and that information sharing, and it's not just about victims or survivors. It's about the people who are [Technical difficulty—Editor] as well.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, the C3P, as we call it, is our national strategy partner. They have developed numerous resources for children, parents, police officers and community members so that they are educated.
Information is power, and I can't stress that enough because it's about people seeing something and then saying something and bringing it forward. That's the best way we can deal with this.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Commissioner, I want to explore a point that was mentioned by the ministers and you in regard to the international front.
I was honoured to be part of a round table in Oshawa, and I want to thank the Durham Regional Police human trafficking unit for that. They had representatives from the FBI and Texas. What I found out is if you commit these offences and human trafficking offences in the United States, there's a mandatory minimum of 10 years per person trafficked.
When the Liberals had a chance to do something about this in 2019, they passed Bill , which turned human trafficking into a hybrid offence where somebody could serve fewer than two years in prison, or just pay a fine of $5,000.
What I wanted to ask you is this. As a police officer, if you wanted to have a disincentive to doing this type of business in Canada, what do you think is the greater disincentive? If I'm this business and want to use these exploitive images on the Internet or to engage in human trafficking via the Internet, and I could do the business in Canada versus the United States, which is the greater disincentive to doing the business in Canada versus the United States, the 10-year mandatory minimums or the potential $5,000 fine? I ask because my sources say that these human slave traders can make $250,000 to $300,000 per person trafficked. Where is the better place to do business?
Good morning again to everyone.
Commissioner Lucki, thank you for coming today and thank you for your comments to date. I had the pleasure of growing up in a small town in British Columbia with an RCMP detachment there, in Prince Rupert. I know during my high school years we were visited by RCMP officers, for good things, of course, for educational items and so forth, so I want to thank all the RCMP officers. Here in Ontario, many people may not see the RCMP officers on a daily basis, but growing up, we certainly did and I say thank you to them.
With regard to the response that was given, the letter dated February 22, 2021, it was a response, actually, to my colleague Mr. Dong's question in terms of whether [Technical difficulty—Editor] Mr. Stephen White, that three-page letter, which I found to be very insightful, very informative and gave an excellent summary of the RCMP's responsibilities with regard to this area of jurisdiction we're looking at in terms of the study.
In terms of the committee's recommendations, because we'll have to write a report and provide recommendations, on page 3, with regard to the RCMP's ask and recommendations to improving the law.... I can just read it. It's the second paragraph on that page. It says:
Some of the RCMP’s proposed recommendations included the amendment to the MRA Regulations to name the NCECC as the designated agency for notifications with respect to Section 3 (Duty to Notify a Police Officer). This change will better align the reporting activity and make standardization possible. The RCMP understands that the requested change, among others, are now being reviewed by the DOJ.
Can you go into and elaborate on how that change would strengthen the RCMP's ability to prosecute and investigate instances of child exploitation?
Thank you so much for that.
Madam Lucki, we hear time and time again from survivors that they're not believed. I want to put this on the record because we've heard about how, when you spoke with Pornhub in 2018, Pornhub believed the rules didn't apply and then they were allowed to do this in a roundabout way. I don't see in the Criminal Code that we let companies under investigation do things in a roundabout way.
I'm dealing with a survivor who called the RCMP about non-consensual...a sexual assault video, and they asked, “How does Pornhub know that was illegal?” That's what they said to her on April 6. On May 23 they said, “There are lots of rapes on that site and some of them are acting, so how is Pornhub supposed to know that this survivor isn't acting? How could she prove that she did not consent?”
Then the RCMP asked her how she could prove that Pornhub did it on purpose, meaning posting something that's illegal. Then they asked her how they knew that Pornhub knew what was being uploaded. How did she know they'd even had a chance to view it in advance? Then the RCMP said, yes, but on W5, they said there weren't enough moderators to do the job properly, so they might not have known that it was not consensual, because they didn't have enough people to moderate it.
These are the questions that are being asked of a survivor, time and time again, and on April 6 the RCMP writes to her and says, if she has a complaint regarding Pornhub's actions, she needs to contact the police where Pornhub is located.
For this woman, the RCMP is her provincial police force. She's told that Pornhub is not a Canadian company. Can you tell this survivor where she has to go to make a complaint about Pornhub?
The committee has not yet determined future witnesses, so the committee will certainly look at the witnesses and, at that point, we will make those determinations. That will be something I will be asking committee members to make some decisions on, in terms of how long the opportunity will remain open for witnesses or individuals who believe they have something to contribute to this study.
We, as a committee, need to give some clarification to people who are watching our study progress. At some point when we have a future business opportunity, I think we'll consider all of those witnesses.
I would remind every person who believes they have something to contribute to this hearing that, while committee members may not agree to hear from every witness who believes they have something to contribute, this committee has made a determination that we will accept all correspondence from people who believe they have something to contribute to this hearing, and it will be considered to be testimony. That was a decision of committee members some time ago.
Therefore, while not every person who believes they have something to contribute will be heard in the way that this committee meeting was held today, the committee has made a decision that we will accept all testimony via written form, and it will be treated in the same way as if those witnesses testified in person—the same provisions of confidentiality, if that is requested, or in terms of parliamentary privilege. Those things will be included. That was a decision of committee members some time ago.
I am certain we will have an opportunity to hear from additional witnesses. I am not sure that anybody [Technical difficulty—Editor] down, Mr. Dong.
Members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to appear before you. As Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons, I am pleased to be here today to answer any questions that the committee may have.
My office provides comprehensive legal and legislative services to the Speaker, the Board of Internal Economy, the House and its committees, members of Parliament, and the House Administration. As legal counsel to the House, its committees and its members, we understand the interests of the legislative branch of government. We provide legal and legislative services to the House that one might say are similar to those provided by the Department of Justice to the government.
With me is Michel Bédard, Deputy Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, Legal Services. I hope my answers will be helpful to the committee.
At the outset, I want to take a few moments to highlight the committee's powers to send for persons.
The House has certain powers that are essential to its work and part of its collective privileges. As the grand inquest of the nation, the House has the right to [Technical difficulty—Editor]. This right is part of the House's privileges, immunities and powers, which are rooted in the preamble in section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and section 4 of the Parliament of Canada Act. These rights in this role have been recognized by courts and include the constitutional power to send for persons, documents and records.
If a witness fails to comply with an order issued by a committee or by the House to appear before a committee to testify, the committee itself cannot impose sanctions on the witness. The committee can accept the situation and the reasons presented, decide to do nothing, or report to the House, which has the power to take appropriate action.
With that, I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you Mr. Dufresne and Mr. Bédard for being present today and answering these questions on ministerial responsibility.
The principles of ministerial accountability guide the ministers and their officials when they appear before parliamentary committees, including when officials appear in their capacity as accounting officers. I understand that ministers are responsible for providing answers to Parliament on questions regarding the government's policies, programs and activities, and for providing as much information as possible about the use of their powers, including those delegated by them to others.
Ministers are also responsible for deciding which questions they should answer personally and which questions may be answered by officials speaking on their behalf. This has been a long-standing practice of the House.
Beyond the broad scope that committees can compel anyone residing in Canada to appear before a committee, do you think that using the committee's power to compel staff, who have, in many cases, no authority over decisions of the government, and forcing them to appear [Technical difficulty—Editor] political gamesmanship?
I'm very honoured and pleased that you're with us today. For me, having sat on this committee for so many years, it's almost bizarre to watch the Liberals now taking the position of Jay Hill. I remember my good friend , who was outraged that the Conservatives did not want political staffers coming to this committee. Now it's something that would be a fundamental threat to democracy if we did have them come.
I'd like to just put it in the perspective of the times. You spoke about the Afghan detainee documents. Canada was in a very messy war. There were allegations of torture. There were international implications. These documents were extremely explosive. I disagreed with the Conservatives at the time on how they were handling the Afghan detainee documents, but we understood that it was a hugely sensitive issue that could have massive ramifications.
In this case, we're dealing with the WE Charity brothers and the fact that they called the Prime Minister's Office three days before cabinet was told that half a billion dollars was to be given to the WE Charity. We're not allowed to talk to the key person in the Prime Minister's Office who was giving them the thumbs-up on that because it's somehow a threat to national security. I think it's just worth putting that into perspective.
I remember when the opposition called the staffer for Christian Paradis to testify. The Conservatives weren't very happy about that. Is it a parliamentary rule that the political staffers, the people close to the , can't testify before a committee? Is that some kind of fundamental rule of democracy?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and I want to thank Mr. Dufresne for being here.
I want to go back to the 2010 precedent. You have been clear that it was different. At that time it was a committee order, versus a House order, but I was here at that time and, as Mr. Angus said, it was a very serious situation. Anybody watching that video....
I'd like to refer to Ms. Lattanzio. When those witnesses, those staffers, were brought to committee, they weren't just asked to be there for one day to fill in information that the opposition didn't have. They were actually berated. It was almost to a point of character assassination.
When she talks about political reasons, Mr. Chair, I would say that the Liberals seem to have a standard now that is different from the standard they had when they were in opposition. I would like to quote , who was there at the time. He said:
If we want to invite the minister to come before the committee, then we will do so, and we'll expect him to be here. When we invite other people to come before the committee, as is our right, we expect them to be here and not to be shut out from coming by an edict from the Prime Minister's Office.
To quote Ms. Lattanzio—and I actually agree—she referred to questions not being relevant. We are asking relevant questions and we need those answers to fully complete our report.
Mr. Dufresne, would you clarify? Am I clear in understanding your explanation to us to mean that the committee order in 2010 is different from a House order this year?