The Toronto Star
Thursday, July 16, 1998
page J8

Porn Prevention

by K.K. Campbell, kkc@competitor.net

...

On a more serious note, MP Chris Axworthy (NDP Saskatoon) last month introduced a private member's bill to the House of Commons to have Internet service providers licenced by the CRTC.

It's been tagged "Bill C-424" but Axworthy suggests it be known as the "Internet Child Pornography Prevention Act".

The Bill would require all Canadian ISPs to be licenced by the CRTC. Regulations would be set by the Industry Minister.

Axworthy says the spectre of Internet child pornography justifies these limitations.

"Child pornography" is defined as pornography showing someone "described as being or who appears to be" under 18.

The Bill has three primary parts:

"Whether we want to admit it or not, child pornography is on the Internet. Pedophiles are using the electronic superhighway", Axworthy says. "We have to act now to put an end to this underground cottage industry of the '90s."

But EFC says this is panic-mongering and over-kill.

David Jones, president of Electronic Frontier Canada, says the Bill would result in a regulatory nightmare.

"One thing I hope will be clear to Canadians is that, currently, the CRTC has no jurisdiction over the Internet", Jones says. "this Bill is asking for a fundamental change in the CRTC's mandate."

Jones' vice-president, Jeffrey Shallit, adds, "This bill represents a disproportionate reaction to a relatively unimportant problem - and by 'relatively unimportant' I mean that the number of offences is likely to be very small."

Shallit says there already exist plenty of laws to prosecute child sex criminals, such as section 163.1 of the Criminal Code. Special Internet-only laws are illogical, Shallit says.

"But it will set up a huge new bureaucracy which is costly and cumbersome, disproportionate to the problem. It puts the State in charge of saying who may speak on the Internet, in violation of the Charter."

The Canadian Police Association supports the legislation. Scott Newark, executive director of the CPA, says he will shortly unveil a Web site called the "Child Pornography Free Zone".

Axworthy introduced a similar item (Bill C-396) on April 8, 1997. It died with the end of the 35th Parliament.

Industry insiders say C-424 will die as well because Industry Canada has no economic interest in regulating the fledgling Canadian Net industry at this time - for fear that interference could retard Canadian competitiveness in the 21st century.

The federal government is seeking ways to get more Canadians online, not ways to restrict ISPs.

"You don't need a licence to own and operate a typewriter, a photocopier, or a printing press", Jones says. "Neither should you need one to be an ISP."

You can get the first House reading of the Bill at http://www.efc.ca/pages/law/bill/Bill-36-C-424.html


Copyright © 1998 by K.K. Campbell. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.