Speaking Notes for The Honourable Bill Blair Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness : Appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics - Ottawa, Ontario April 12, 2021

Protection of Privacy and Reputation on Platforms Such as Pornhub

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Word Count: 789 words (6 mins)

Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.

Thank you for inviting me to be here, and for your important and timely study on this issue.

The sexual abuse and exploitation of a child – in any context and on any platform – is intolerable.

Recording the sexual abuse of a child can have a significant, lifelong impact on victims and survivors.

And sadly, as some of these victims grow older, many come to realize that their images continue to be circulated on the Internet, and they are re-victimized again and again as this material is shared.

I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize the remarkable courage and resilience of survivors in coming forward and speaking out.

I’m appalled at reports that abhorrent material of this kind has been found on platforms.

And it’s unacceptable that victims have encountered difficulties in getting companies to remove illegal content.

Their stories and experiences remind us all of the important work that we must do – and are doing – to protect children and youth.

The Government of Canada is proud to play a leading role in these efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation.

We are taking action to increase awareness and reduce the stigma of reporting.

This is important, because we know that the number of reported cases is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true scale of this heinous crime.

Internet companies must also do more to protect children.

And we are taking steps to hold them to account for their role in this.

We are also taking action to bring more perpetrators to justice by supporting efforts to detect, investigate and prosecute cases.

I have asked the RCMP Commissioner to continue to work with her provincial and territorial counterparts to address this crime, and to ensure prosecution is done when deemed appropriate by law enforcement.

Canada’s National Strategy on this issue is led by Public Safety Canada, which works in partnership with the RCMP, the Department of Justice and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, or C3P.

We are backing this National Strategy with ongoing annual funding of more than $18 million.

That includes support for Cybertip.ca, a national tip line operated by C3P.

It also includes $5.8 million in ongoing funding, announced in 2018, to increase the investigative capacity of the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Crime Centre.

On top of this, in Budget 2019, we invested $22.2 million over three years in additional funding to better protect children from this horrendous crime.

Of that amount, $15 million is specifically aimed at enhancing the capacity of Internet Child Exploitation Units in municipal and provincial police forces.

These specialized units are dedicated to investigating cases of online child sexual exploitation.

Investments in Budget 2019 are also helping to increase public awareness of this crime, reduce the stigma associated with reporting, and work with digital industry to find new ways to combat the sexual exploitation of children online.

At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge the complexities and jurisdictional challenges involved in this borderless crime.

Perpetrators and victims can be anywhere in the world.

And images of child sexual abuse and exploitation can be shared on platforms that may be headquartered in one country but legally registered in another, with servers in yet another different country.

This affects the authority of Canadian law enforcement agencies to investigate, and the application of Canadian laws. 

But I’m confident that law enforcement are doing, and will continue to do, everything possible to investigate those horrendous crimes and prosecute those responsible.

International cooperation is key.

And I can assure you that the RCMP and the Department of Justice work closely with international partners on investigations and prosecutions.

We also continue to work closely with our international allies and partners to find solutions to better protect children and youth.

Last year, for example, Canada and its Five Eyes partners launched the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

These Voluntary Principles are a guide for industry on how to counter this scourge on their platforms.

We recognize that there’s much more work to do.

That’s why we also intend to introduce legislation to create a new regulator that would ensure that online platforms remove harmful content, including depictions of child sexual exploitation, and intimate images that are shared without consent.

Public Safety Canada and other departments are working on this proposed legislation with Canadian Heritage, which is leading this effort.

We will keep doing everything we can to protect Canadian children and support Canadian survivors of this terrible crime.

And we will continue to work with domestic and international partners to investigate cases where evidence exists, and bring perpetrators to justice.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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