Federal Standing Committee on Health’s Report on Violent and Degrading Material (M-47) Ignores Harm of Material on Users

(Photo by Benson Kua, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10803582)

(Photo by Benson Kua, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10803582)

In March of 2017, Christian Legal Fellowship made written submissions to the federal Standing Committee on Health (Committee) regarding the public effects of online violent and degrading sexually explicit materials (Motion M-47). In its submissions, CLF recognized that though expression is a broadly defined freedom, restriction on the use of “violent and degrading sexually explicit material” is justifiable to the extent that such material can lead to a reasonable apprehension of harm. Evidence shows that those who view such material are either physically or psychologically harmed in that they are predisposed to anti-social behaviour, cognitive distortion, etc. CLF also submitted that it is within federal jurisdiction to legislate concerning “public health evils” under its criminal law power. Furthermore, morality is a legitimate legislative objective and should be an important consideration in legislation governing sexuality and sexual material.

Earlier today, the Committee released its report which, though mentioning public health effects of such material on children, unfortunately says little on its effects on adults. The report’s recommendations focus on how to address sexual health in the digital age in a way that educates children on “the different spectrum of sexual expressions and identities including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, 2 spirited (LGBTQ2+) communities”.

Opposition members of the committee wrote a dissenting opinion that addresses the public health impacts of pornography not only on children but also on adults. Regarding the committee’s recommendations, the dissent opinion specifically cautions the federal government to respect parental choice and autonomy by making all guidelines for sexual health education available to parents so that they can utilize it as they see fit. It also urges the government to increase funding in researching the public health impacts of violent and degrading sexual material.