It is perhaps ironic that Canada’s Senate is scheduled give third reading to bills C-38 and C-2 one right after the other this week.
Bill C-38 is the same-sex civil marriage bill that has made headlines for months as it wound its way through Parliament over the opposition of religious activists, the Stephen Harper Conservatives and a big rump of Liberal MPs.
Bill C-2, in contrast, was the first bill introduced by Prime Minister Paul Martin’s government after Harper suggested in the last federal election that Martin was soft on child pornography. C-2 has been largely ignored by the press until recent days, and received little opposition in Parliament even though civil libertarians, arts groups, journalists and leading gay organizations vigorously opposed sections of the bill.
The Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario denounced the bill for dangerously over-reaching in its attempt to protect children from sexual exploitation.
In recent days, The Globe And Mail editorialized against the bill, suggesting the Senate send it back to Parliament for reworking. Meanwhile, the Senate’s Legal And Constitutional Affairs Committee heard arguments against the bill from arts groups.
The bill’s critics appeared to convince Liberal Senator Serge Joyal. On his insistence, the Senate has taken the step of attaching “observations” expressing concern that the bill tramples artistic freedom and constitutional rights.
“We have serious reservations about the broadened definition of child porno-graphy and the reformulated defence,” states the observation submitted by the committee. “The new definition could lead to a conviction for a child porno-graphy offence without there being any abuse of an actual person.
“We are also concerned about the revised defence, which will permit art that has a ‘legitimate purpose’ and ‘does not pose an undue risk of harm’ to minors. This new defence is vague and subjective; leading to uncertainty for artists and writers and a possible restraint on their creativity.”
But C-2, along with C-38, was, at Xtra’s press time, expected to pass third reading on Jul 19 or Jul 20 and receive royal assent immediately after.
Same-sex marriage will then be legal throughout all of Canada. But teens will have fewer sexual rights than they did last week. And Canada’s artists, particularly queer artists, will be even more vulnerable to charges.