On December 5, 2002 Bill C-20, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, has been introduced in the House of Commons. The proposed changes are:
- improve protections for children from sexual exploitation;
- increase penalties for child related offences;
- criminalize voyeurism; and
- establish increased protections for child witnesses.
The reforms include stronger child pornography provisions under which a person may be found guilty of a child pornography offence where the material or act does not serve the “public good” or where the risk of the harm outweighs any public good served. The definition of written child pornography is expanded to include material that is created for a sexual purpose and predominantly describes prohibited sexual activity with children.
A new category of sexual exploitation is established and is aimed at protecting young persons between 14 and 18 years of age. Under this provision, the courts must consider whether a relationship is exploitive based on its nature and circumstances, including factors such as age difference, the evolution of the relationship and the degree of control or influence that is exercised over the young person.
Higher maximum sentences for offences that harm children are proposed, including sexual exploitation, child abandonment or failure to provide necessaries of life. Abuse of a child in the commission of any other Criminal Code offence will be considered an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing.
The changes also create an offence of voyeurism and the distribution of voyeuristic material.
Finally, the current Criminal Code provisions will be expanded to allow all vulnerable witnesses under 18 years of age to benefit from testimonial aides in any criminal proceeding. These aides include closed circuit televisions, screens and support persons in court and are designed to ease the trauma of testifying.