Third Reading of Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service

Honourable senators, I would like to speak on third reading of Bill C-22, and I will get to that in a moment.

It is hard to speak when one has been informed of the death of a very close friend, in this case, Jim Travers, my buddy at The Toronto Star. I must speak about my friend Jim, whom I have known since 1974. We worked on many election campaigns together. I travelled around the world with Jim. We were the three Jims — Jim Travers, Jim Munson and Jim Maclean of Newsradio.

Jim passed away, I understand, due to complications from an operation. It is difficult to speak about this. Jim was a very sweet man. We had a lot of fun together, and he will be missed.

I will speak to third reading of Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service.

I believe that this bill will have a positive impact and will enhance Canada’s capacity to identify and prosecute child pornographers. When I addressed senators last month for the first time as critic of this bill, I outlined my particular concerns.

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs conducted a thorough examination of the bill, and I am grateful to the chair, the deputy chair and all members for listening and responding to these concerns.

The committee invited a solid group of witnesses representing the key issues and posed the necessary questions. I attended some of the hearings and appreciated the opportunity to ask a few questions myself.

With the committee’s work complete and the bill now at third reading stage, some of my initial concerns linger. I still wonder, for instance, about the rationale for the two distinct reporting requirements described in clauses 3 and 4 of the bill. To refresh the memories of honourable senators on the content of these clauses, depending on the circumstances, reports are to be made to either the police or an agency that will be designated by regulation. I still wonder why the police would not be notified in all cases, as is typically done.

Also, I remain convinced that it would be preferable to designate the agency democratically by parliamentarians rather than by regulation. Beyond simply naming the agency that will carry out the work, there is a great deal at stake in the related decisions. A crucial issue is how this agency will collect, manage and store personal information included in reports.

Once Bill C-22 is passed, Internet service providers will essentially be required to act as agents of the state in police investigations or they will be prosecuted. This is a new law, so we must be watchful and careful that it does not impinge on the rights and freedoms of those impacted by it.

Finally, even before taking steps to prevent privacy breaches and civil liberties infractions, those responsible for implementing the bill will have to work out all important practical matters, such as meeting funding and human and technical resource needs.

According to a news release issued this week by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs — this is scary and hard to believe — an estimated half million people worldwide are actively involved in the trafficking of child sexual abuse images on the Internet. The mind boggles at those figures. I think of the victims of these monstrous criminals and, like all honourable senators, instinctively want to protect them.

At the end of the day, though, Bill C-22 has been created to better equip Canada to protect children — our children, your children — from those who prey on their vulnerability. As such, it is another positive step in the right direction.