signup readlatest
More Info

Current Status

Motion M-47 (2016)

In 2016 MP Arnold Viersen has introduced a motion calling for the Standing Committee on Health to study the public health effects of the ease of access and viewing of online violent and degrading sexually explicit material on children, women and men. The EFC has posted a sample letter that individuals can use to write to their MP in support of Motion M-47.

General Background

Pornography, with the exception of child pornography, is dealt with under the Criminal Code offence of obscenity [Section 162]. Obscenity is defined as any publication that unduly exploits sex or portrays sex with violence, crime, horror or cruelty as its dominant characteristic. The courts decide when the exploitation of sex is "undue" by considering community standards of tolerance and the risk of harm that may flow from exposure to the material. This test asks what Canadians would not tolerate other Canadians being exposed to, not what they would tolerate being exposed to themselves. It is subjective and is interpreted very narrowly, allowing much to escape the definition of obscenity.

The possession and distribution of child pornography was specifically made an offence in 1993. The Criminal Code [in Section 163.1] defines child pornography as any visual representation of explicit sexual activity involving anyone under the age of 18 or depicted as under 18, other visual representations of a sexual nature of a person under 18, and written material or visual depictions that advocate or counsel illegal sexual activity involving underage persons. There are defences based on artistic merit, and medical and educational purposes.

In January 2001 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a challenge to the child pornography law by John Robin Sharpe. The court did make an exception for works of the mind that were used only by the person who created the work.

In March 2002, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled again on the pornographic works in the possession of John Robin Sharpe.  Mr. Justice Shaw ruled that written works were not criminalized under the child pornography provisions of the Criminal Code unless they actively encouraged sexual abuse of children. He also ruled that written works enjoyed broad protection under the "artistic merit" defence if they showed any literary qualities.

The Child Exploitation Bill (C-2) was passed by the Senate in July 2005. This bill is intended to protect “children and other vulnerable persons from sexual exploitation, violence, abuse and neglect,” by broadening the definition of child pornography, increasing maximum penalties for offences, as well as decreasing the number of legitimate defences by adding offences to the Criminal Code and Canada Evidence Act. [1]

This 2005 law replaces the artistic merits defence with the ‘legitimate purpose’ defence, which puts the onus on the accused to prove their material to be in the “pursuit of justice, science, medicine, education, or art, and [that it] does not pose an undue risk of harm to children.” C-2 also protects police officers and/or doctors who would employ such material in an authoritative and trustworthy capacity.

In November 2009 the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-58, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service. The bill eventually became law. Details the the EFC's blog and specifically this post.


[1] Press Release, “Minister of Justice Introduces Legislation to Protect Children and other vulnerable persons as first bill in New Parliament,” (2004) http://canada.justice.gc.ca/en/news/nr/2004/doc_31246.html [7 July 2005], Department of Justice Canada.

Issue: Pornography

Current Status
What You Can Do   

Printer Friendly Version

Related Issue: Global Poverty
Related Issue: Human Trafficking
Related Issue: Prostitution
Related Issue: Refugees

Helpful Links

Porn and Public Health: Short 2016 Video from Defend Dignity

Sexaholics Anonymous

XXX Church support ministry

International agencies for reporting Child Pornography

100 Huntley Street TV episodes tackling the issue

Copyright ©2016 The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. All rights reserved.