Skip to main content
Start of content
Start of content

441-02274 (Health)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English


WE, THE UNDERSIGNED RESIDENTS OF CANADA, draw the attention of the House to the following:


Sexually explicit material - including demeaning material and material depicting sexual violence can be easily accessed on the Internet by young persons;

A significant proportion of the sexually explicit material accessed online is made available on the Internet for commercial purposes and is not protected by any effective age-verification method;

The consumption of sexually explicit material by young persons is associated with a range of serious harms, including the development of pornography addiction, the reinforcement of gender stereotypes and the development of attitudes favourable to harassment and violence including sexual harassment and sexual violence - particularly against women;

Parliament recognizes that the harmful effect of the increasing accessibility of sexually explicit material online for young persons is an important public health and public safety concern;

Online age-verification technology is increasingly sophisticated and can now effectively ascertain the age of users without breaching their privacy rights;

Anyone making sexually explicit material available on the Internet for commercial purposes has a responsibility to ensure that it is not accessed by young persons; and

Online age-verification was the primary recommendation made by stakeholders during a 2017 study by the Standing Committee on Health.

THEREFORE, your petitioners call upon the House of Commons to adopt Bill S-210, Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act.

Response by the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Taleeb Noormohamed

The Government would like to thank the petitioners for expressing their concerns regarding the protection of young people online, especially with regard to the consumption of sexually explicit material. This is an important issue. The Government recently tabled online harms legislation (Bill C-63), which recognizes the need to better protect children online.

Bill C-63 proposes to create the Online Harms Act, which aims to promote online safety by reducing exposure to harmful content on social media services, with a special emphasis on protecting children.  

The Online Harms Act imposes three statutory duties that establish minimum standards that services must meet to ensure the safety of Canadians online:

  1. Duty to Act Responsibly
  2. Duty to Protect Children
  3. Duty to Make Certain Content Inaccessible

The Duty to Act Responsibly establishes a standard of conduct that social media services must follow to ensure the safety of users on their platforms and to create more transparency and accountability about how they deal with harmful content.

  The Duty to Protect Children requires social media services to provide protections for children online including the integration of age-appropriate design features on their platforms and to be more transparent by reporting on the specific measures that they are taking to protect children. Design features could include things like defaults for parental controls, default settings related to warning labels for children, or safe search settings for a service’s internal search function. They could also include design features to limit children’s exposure to harmful content, including explicit adult content, cyberbullying content and content that incites self-harm.

The Duty to Make Certain Content Inaccessible requires social media services to expeditiously remove two categories of content from their services: 

  1. Content that sexually victimizes a child or revictimizes a survivor, and 
  2. Intimate content communicated without consent. 

The Act also creates a new Digital Safety Commission of Canada to oversee and enforce the Act; a Digital Safety Ombudsperson of Canada to advocate for and support victims and a Digital Safety Office of Canada which supports both administratively. Part of the Digital Safety Commission’s mandate would be to enforce the removal of content that sexually victimizes a child or revictimizes a survivor and intimate content communicated without consent; and to promote societal resilience to harms online and set new standards for online safety by providing guidance to services on how to mitigate risk, perform research, work with stakeholders, and develop educational resources for the public, including children and parents. Overall, the Digital Safety Commission would be able to enact guidelines and regulations under the three duties, which would allow the legislation to be adaptable and to grow over time as the landscape of harmful content affecting children changes.

The Government has also looked at efforts in other jurisdictions to protect children from explicit sexual content and other harmful content online. It has reviewed the United Kingdom’s 'Age-Appropriate Design Code' that requires regulated services to develop age assurance tools and other measures to mitigate the risk of exposure to harmful content by children. And it has watched with interest as Australia has indicated it will prioritize industry codes over mandatory age verification to address children’s access to online pornography.

The Online Harmslegislation was developed following extensive consultations by the Government of Canada since 2021, including public consultations, an Expert Advisory Group on Online Safety, a Citizens’ Assembly on Democratic Expression focused on online safety, and 22 online and virtual roundtables across Canada, as well as consultations held in 2020 by the Minister of Justice, when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. During these engagements there was strong consensus for protecting children and youth from online harm. Summaries of consultations can be found online

Overall, the Government believes Bill C-63 would create stronger online protections for children and better safeguard everyone in Canada from online hate and other types of harmful content. It would hold online platforms, including livestreaming and user-uploaded adult content services, accountable for reducing users’ exposure to harmful content on their platforms and help prevent its spread.

Despite its important policy objective, we do not believe that Bill S-210 is the best way to achieve the goal of protecting children online. It is a partial, piecemeal solution that ignores many of the most harmful forms of  content that affect children online, including cyberbullying, incitement to self-harm, and child-sexual-abuse material. Furthermore, the bill has a broad scope and would regulate more websites than just adult websites and more content than pornographic content, it imposes unrealistic timelines for implementation and compliance, it raises a range of potential privacy risks, and it relies on website blocking which is a contentious enforcement mechanism with freedom of expression risks.

Presented to the House of Commons
Alex Ruff (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound)
March 22, 2024 (Petition No. 441-02274)
Government response tabled
May 6, 2024
Photo - Alex Ruff
Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound
Conservative Caucus

45 signatures

Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.