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MP submits private member’s bill for second time

After expecting government’s own legislation regarding online harm, Arnold Viersen got tired of waiting
Arnold Viersen BHD Volunteer event April 30 2022 copy
Peace River-Westlock CPC MP Arnold Viersen (pictured here at Barrhead's annual volunteer appreciation event on April 30) introduced his private member's bill, Stopping Internet Sexual Exploitation Act in the House of Commons late last month.

BARRHEAD - If one does not succeed, then try, try again.

Late last month, Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-270, Stopping Internet Sexual Exploitation Act (SISE), in the House of Commons.

It is his second attempt to pass the legislation. In May 2021, Viersen introduced an identical version of SISI (Bill C-302), but it died on the order paper due to the federal election.

Viersen said ensuring that Canadian pornography companies obtain consent from those depicted in the materials and are of legal age is something he has been working on for some time now, noting it goes hand-in-hand with his efforts in human trafficking.

"It is something I have been working on for quite a while," he said, adding the work goes hand-in-hand with his efforts to combat human slavery and trafficking.

However, after reading a New York Times article "The Children of Pornhub" by columnist Nicholas Kristof in late 2020, it spurred his efforts even more.

In the article, Kristof states the adult website hosts' pictures and videos depicting sexual abuse and exploitation of minors and individuals who had the content uploaded to the website without their knowledge and/or consent.

“For years, pornographic platforms in Canada have published sexually explicit material without any requirement to verify the age or consent of those depicted in them,” said Viersen in a media release. “As a result, horrific videos of sex trafficking, child exploitation, and sexual assault have proliferated on Canadian pornography websites. Many of these videos have been monetized, bringing in massive profits.”

“Consent matters," he continued. "If a website is going to profit from making or publishing pornographic content, the SISE Act ensures they must verify the age and consent of every individual in every video.” 

The bill, if passed, would require those who are making or distributing pornographic material for a commercial purpose to verify the age and consent of each person depicted. It would also prevent the distribution of pornographic material when consent has been withdrawn.

Those in violation of the act would face an escalating series of financial penalties and the potential of jail time mirroring mandatory child pornography reporting laws.

Viersen hoped he would not have to reintroduce the bill saying he was waiting on the Liberal government to introduce its own Internet harm bill.

"I was hopeful that they would pick up SISE and incorporate it into their Internet harm bill that they have been promising for a while now, but it does not seem to be forthcoming," he said. "So, I decided to reintroduce it and push it forward myself."

In the summer, the Liberals introduced a blueprint for cracking down on harmful material posted on online platforms.

Under the proposed rules, a digital safety commissioner would help enforce a new regime that requires social media companies and websites to weed out child pornography, terroristic content, hate speech and other harmful posts.

And while Viersen is hopeful SISE will pass, he realizes as a private member's bill, especially one coming from an opposition party, it will be an uphill battle and a lengthy one.

He said, depending on how long this Parliament lasts, he does not expect to be able to debate the bill until sometime in the spring of 2023.

"I think there are something like 87 on the private member's bill list," Viersen said. "But you never know what will happen in a minority Parliament."

One of the potential outcomes could see the governing Liberals still incorporate the facets of Bill C-270 into their own legislation.

"Currently, as part of the budget, five Conservative Party private member's bills have been usurped by the government," he said. "It is something that happens relatively often, so I am hopeful they will think this is a good idea and do it as well."

Viersen added if that happens, it would speed up the potential timeline considerably, and SISE (in its new form) could start protecting vulnerable people.

Barry Kerton, TownandCountryToday.com

 



Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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