December 8, 2016 marked an important date for all Canadians: children, women and men. My Private Member’s Motion M-47 came up for second reading, debate and vote in the House of Commons. In a unanimous show of support amongst parties, M-47 was passed and sent to the Standing Committee on Health to:
“…examine the public health effects of the ease of access and viewing of online violent and degrading sexually explicit material on children, women and men … and that the said Committee report its findings to the House no later than July 2017.”
To ensure clarity, the focus of this study is limited to material that is sexually explicit and contains violence or degradation. The Committee will hear from important stakeholders such as parents, educators, the medical community, women’s groups and academics with the goal of putting forward recommendations that can reduce the harm of this material, not just through law, but through cooperation and partnerships outside of the law. Response to this issue must not be limited to legislation. It requires a holistic and multifaceted approach.
Canada last studied the impact of violent sexually explicit material 30 years ago, before the invention of the internet. The 1985 Fraser Committee Report found that sexually explicit material in pre-internet 1985 perpetuated “lies about aspects of women’s humanity” and denied “the validity of their aspirations to be treated as full and equal citizens.”
Today, violent and degrading sexually explicit material, in which the majority of violence is directed at women, is easily accessible to anyone with access to the internet. As the medical community has discovered, this is having a significant harmful impact on the mental, emotional and sexual health of children, women and men.
This impact is a growing concern. Adult sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined, with Pornhub alone receiving 21.2 billion visits in 2015. 35% of all internet downloads are sexually explicit; globally, sexually explicit material is a $97 billion industry. The average age of first exposure among boys is 12 years of age.
Sexually explicit material has become a primary source of information about sex and a significant factor influencing sexual behaviours for children and adolescents.
Sex trafficking is another form of exploitation. I have risen in the House a number of times to make statements on this related issue. I urged the Liberal government to demand that backpage.com stop allowing victims of sex trafficking to be advertised on its website in cities across Canada. You can view and share the statements online here:
I am grateful to my colleagues in all parties for recognizing the serious nature of the threat these issues pose to the health of all Canadians. Our fight against online sexual violence is not over, but it has at least begun.